Our closest relative?

Sometimes it seems like you can't throw a rock at a new primate fossil without hitting talk about how it's the "missing link". A new find in South Africa, however, may provide some very important clues to understanding human evolution and even has the potential to reshape conventional wisdom on the matter. From the BBC:
The 1.9-million-year-old fossils were first described in 2010, and given the species name Australopithecus sediba.
But the team behind the discovery has now come back with a deeper analysis.
It tells Science magazine that features seen in the brain, feet, hands and pelvis of A. sediba all suggest this species was on the direct evolutionary line to us - Homo sapiens.
"We have examined the critical areas of anatomy that have been used consistently for identifying the uniqueness of human beings," said Professor Lee Berger from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg
"Any one of these features could have evolved separately, but it is highly unlikely that all of them would have evolved together if A. sediba was not related to our lineage," the team leader informed BBC News.

Berger's team believes that, due to many anatomical features of this surprisingly complete skeleton, it's a highly viable candidate for a direct ancestor of us modern homo sapiens. Interestingly, the brain was more primitive, which comports with conventional wisdom that the leap to modern intelligence happened in a relatively short time.


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