Fossils could be ‘missing link’ in human evolution
For years scientists have been looking for a so-called missing link that came before modern humans in the chain of evolution, and analysis of newly-discovered fossils reveals that they may have found it. Bones of the Australopithecus sediba are believed to fill the void and could go a long way toward helping scientists understand the past, the Associated Press reports.
The bones were found in 2008 in a cave in South Africa, and scientists believe they are such an important discovery because the bones show a combination of both Australopithecus features as well as Homo features. Previously, the two geni have been separate, but the findings suggest a unique mixture of the two.
The most substantial detail in the finding has to do with the brain. While it is smaller, like that of a chimpanzee, its configuration and place in the skull is much more human like. Despite the encouraging findings, it may take years for the scientific community to accept the theories.
"It will take a lot of scrutiny of the papers and of the fossils by more and more researchers over the coming months and years, but these analyses could well be 'game-changers' in understanding human evolution," Richard Potts, the director of the human origins program at the Smithsonian Institution, told the AP.
As Potts suggests, there are still many scientists who are doubtful that the finding is significant as some make it out to be, The New York Times reports. Instead, a set of paleantologists believe that the fossils are more representative of the the fact that Australopithecus is an extremely diverse genus.