New Studies Shake Up Human Family Tree
by Brian Switek
Everybody knows “Lucy.” For nearly four decades, this famous partial skeleton of Australopithecus afarensis, dated to 3.2 million years ago, has been an ambassador for our prehistoric past, and her species has stood as the most likely immediate ancestor of our own genus-Homo.
But in a spate of new studies, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, of the University of the Witwatersrand, and a team of collaborators have put forward a controversial claim that another hominin-Australopithecus sediba-might be even closer to the origin of our lineage, possibly bumping Lucy from the critical evolutionary junction she has occupied for so long.
Berger and colleagues named Australopithecus sediba in 2010. The 1.98-million-year-old hominin, known from partial skeletons of an adult female and a juvenile male, along with an isolated tibia, was discovered two years earlier at the South African cave site of Malapa…
(read more: National Geo) (photo: Brent Stirton/Nat Geo)