Current Australopithecus News and Events

Current Australopithecus News and Events, Australopithecus News Articles.
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Newly discovered fossil shows small-scale evolutionary changes in an extinct human species
Males of the extinct human species Paranthropus robustus were thought to be substantially larger than females -- much like the size differences seen in modern-day primates such as gorillas, orangutans and baboons. But a new fossil discovery in South Africa instead suggests that P. robustus evolved rapidly during a turbulent period of local climate change about 2 million years ago, resulting in anatomical changes that previously were attributed to sex. (2020-11-09)

New study records dual hand use in early human relative
Research by anthropologists at the University of Kent has identified hand use behavior in fossil human relatives that is consistent with modern humans. The human lineage can be defined by a transition in hand use. Early human ancestors used their hands to move around in the trees, like living primates do today, whereas modern human hands have evolved to primarily perform precision grips. (2020-05-18)

In South Africa, three hominins, including earliest Homo erectus, lived during same period
Nearly 2 million years ago, three hominin genera -- Australopithecus, Paranthropus and the earliest Homo erectus lineage -- lived as contemporaries in the karst landscape of what is now South Africa, according to a new geochronological evaluation of the hominin fossil-rich Drimolen Paleocave complex. (2020-04-02)

Our direct human ancestor Homo erectus is older than we thought
A Homo erectus skullcap found northwest of Johannesburg in South Africa has been identified as the oldest to date, in research published in Science. The hominin is a direct ancestor of modern humans, experienced a changing climate, and moved out of Africa into other continents. The discovery of DNH 134 pushes the possible origin of Homo erectus back between 150,000 and 200,000 years. (2020-04-02)

When three species of human ancestor walked the Earth
In a paper published this week in Science, an international team of scientists share details of the most ancient fossil of Homo erectus known and discuss how these new findings are forcing us to rewrite a part of our species' evolutionary history. (2020-04-02)

Lucy had an ape-like brain
A new study led by paleoanthropologists Philipp Gunz and Simon Neubauer from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, reveals that Lucy's species Australopithecus afarensis had an ape-like brain. However, the protracted brain growth suggests that -- as is the case in humans -- infants may have had a long dependence on caregivers. (2020-04-01)

Skull scans reveal evolutionary secrets of fossil brains
Three-million-year old brain imprints in fossil skulls of the species Australopithecus afarensis (famous for 'Lucy' and 'Selam' from Ethiopia) shed new light on the evolution of brain growth and organization. In Science Advances, a new study reveals that while Lucy's species had an ape-like brain structure, the brain took longer to reach adult size. Australopithecus afarensis infants may have had a long dependence on caregivers, a human-like trait. (2020-04-01)

Ancient hominins had small brains like apes, but longer childhoods like humans
Using precise imaging technology to scan fossil skulls, researchers found that as early as 3 million years ago, children had a long dependence on caregivers. (2020-04-01)

'Little Foot' skull reveals how this more than 3 million year old human ancestor lived
High-resolution micro-CT scanning of the skull of the fossil specimen known as 'Little Foot' has revealed some aspects of how this Australopithecus species used to live more than 3 million years ago. (2020-03-17)

Apes' inner ears could hide clues to evolutionary history of hominoids
Studying the inner ear of apes and humans could uncover new information on our species' evolutionary relationships, suggests a new study published today in eLife. (2020-03-03)

What the noggin of modern humans' ancestor would have looked like
Despite having lived about 300,000 years ago, the oldest ancestor of all members of our species had a surprisingly modern skull -- as suggested by a model created by CNRS researcher Aurélien Mounier and Cambridge University professor Marta Mirazón Lahr. After comparing the virtually rendered skull to five African fossil specimens contemporaneous with the first appearance of Homo sapiens, the two researchers posit that our species emerged through interbreeding of South and East African populations. (2019-09-10)

First human ancestors breastfed for longer than contemporary relatives
By analyzing the fossilized teeth of some of our most ancient ancestors, a team of scientists led by the universities of Bristol (UK) and Lyon (France) have discovered that the first humans significantly breastfed their infants for longer periods than their contemporary relatives. (2019-08-29)

A face for Lucy's ancestor
Australopithecus anamensis is the earliest-known species of Australopithecus and widely accepted as the progenitor of 'Lucy's' species, Australopithecus afarensis. Until now, A. anamensis was known mainly from jaws and teeth. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Stephanie Melillo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and their colleagues have discovered the first cranium of A. anamensis at the paleontological site of Woranso-Mille, in the Afar Region of Ethiopia. (2019-08-28)

A 3.8-million-year-old fossil from Ethiopia reveals the face of Lucy's ancestor
Cleveland Museum of Natural History Curator of Physical Anthropology Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie and an international team of researchers have discovered a 'remarkably complete' 3.8-million-year-old cranium in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Assigned to Australopithecus anamensis -- previously only known through jaw fragments and teeth -- the identification and dating of the specimen are significant in offering us our first look at the face of Lucy's ancestor and in challenging long-held hypotheses about the nature of hominin evolution. (2019-08-28)

Fossil of smallest old world monkey species discovered in Kenya
Researchers from the National Museums of Kenya, University of Arkansas, University of Missouri and Duke University have announced the discovery of a tiny monkey that lived in Kenya 4.2 million years ago. (2019-07-15)

Extinct human species likely breast fed for a year after birth, NIH-funded study suggests
Infants of the extinct human species Australopithecus africanus likely breast fed for up to a year after birth, similar to modern humans but of shorter duration than modern day great apes, according to an analysis of fossil teeth funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. The findings provide insight into how breast feeding evolved among humans and may inform strategies to improve modern breast-feeding practices. (2019-07-15)

Maternal secrets of our earliest ancestors unlocked
New research brings to light for the first time the evolution of maternal roles and parenting responsibilities in one of our oldest evolutionary ancestors. Australopithecus africanus mothers breastfed their infants for the first 12 months after birth, and continued to supplement their diets with breastmilk during periods of food shortage. Tooth chemistry analyses enable scientists to 'read' more than two-million-year-old teeth. Finding demonstrates why early human ancestors had fewer offspring and extended parenting role. (2019-07-15)

Statistical study finds it unlikely South African fossil species is ancestral to humans
Research by UChicago paleontologists finds that it is unlikely that a two-million-year-old, apelike fossil from South Africa is a direct ancestor of Homo, the genus to which modern-day humans belong. (2019-05-08)

Scientists confirm pair of skeletons are from same early hominin species
Separate skeletons suggested to be from different early hominin species are, in fact, from the same species, a team of anthropologists has concluded in a comprehensive analysis of remains first discovered a decade ago. (2019-01-17)

Understanding our early human ancestors: Australopithecus sediba
Following the 2008 discovery of Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa by Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where two of the most complete skeletons of early human ancestors were found, a new hominin species, 'Australopithecus sediba (Au. sediba),' was named. 'PaleoAnthropology' has published a special issue with full descriptions of the hominin fossil material, body size and proportions, and walking mechanics, including 3D animations of 'Au. sediba' walking. (2019-01-17)

Peering into Little Foot's 3.67 million-year-old brain
MicroCT scans of the Australopithecus fossil known as Little Foot shows that the brain of this ancient human relative was small and shows features that are similar to our own brain and others that are closer to our ancestor shared with living chimpanzees. (2018-12-18)

Evolution: South Africa's hominin record is a fair-weather friend
The fossil record of early hominins in South Africa is biased towards periods of drier climate, suggests a study of cave deposits published online today in Nature. This finding suggests there are gaps in the fossil record, potentially obscuring evolutionary patterns and affecting our understanding of both the habitats and dietary behaviours of early hominins in this region. South Africa's highest concentration of early hominin fossils comes from the 'Cradle of Humankind' caves northwest of Johannesburg. (2018-11-21)

Getting to the roots of our ancient cousin's diet
Since the discovery of the fossil remains of Australopithecus africanus from Taung nearly a century ago, and subsequent discoveries of Paranthropus robustus, there have been disagreements about the diets of these two South African hominin species. By analyzing the splay and orientation of fossil hominin tooth roots, researchers of the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology, the University of Chile and the University of Oxford now suggest that Paranthropus robustus had a unique way of chewing food not seen in other hominins. (2018-08-28)

Our human ancestors walked on two feet but their children still had a backup plan
More than 3 million years ago, our ancient human ancestors, including their toddler-aged children, were standing on two feet and walking upright, according to a new study published in Science Advances. (2018-07-04)

Foot fossil of juvenile hominin exhibits ape-like features
A rare juvenile foot fossil of our early hominin ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, exhibits several ape-like foot characteristics that could have aided in foot grasping for climbing trees, a new study shows. (2018-07-04)

Cranium of a four-million-year-old hominin shows similarities to that of modern humans
A cranium of a four-million-year-old fossil, that, in 1995 was described as the oldest evidence of human evolution in South Africa, has shown similarities to that of our own, when scanned through high resolution imaging systems. (2018-06-25)

Where hominid brains are concerned, size doesn't matter
Researchers pieced together traces of Homo naledi's brain shape from an extraordinary collection of skull fragments and partial crania, from at least five adult individuals. One of these bore a very clear imprint of the convolutions on the surface of the brain's left frontal lobe. (2018-05-14)

Litte Foot takes a bow
Little Foot is the only known virtually complete Australopithecus fossil discovered to date. It is by far the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor older than 1.5 million years ever found. It is also the oldest fossil hominid in southern Africa, dating back 3.67 million years. For the first time ever, the completely cleaned and reconstructed skeleton was viewed by the national and international media. (2017-12-06)

Meet the hominin species that gave us genital herpes
New research uses innovative data modeling to predict which species acted as an intermediary between our ancestors and those of chimpanzees to carry HSV2 -- the genital herpes virus -- across the species barrier. (2017-10-01)

Fossil footprints challenge established theories of human evolution
Newly discovered human-like footprints from Crete may put the established narrative of early human evolution to the test. The footprints are approximately 5.7 million years old and were made at a time when previous research puts our ancestors in Africa -- with ape-like feet. (2017-08-31)

3.3-million-year-old fossil reveals the antiquity of the human spine
An international research team has found a 3.3 million Australopithecus afarensis fossilized skeleton, possessing the most complete spinal column of any early fossil human relative. The vertebral bones, neck and rib cage are mainly intact. This new research, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science demonstrates that portions of the human skeletal structure were established millions of years earlier than previously thought. (2017-05-22)

3.3-million-year-old fossil reveals origins of the human spine
Analysis of a 3.3 million-year-old fossil skeleton reveals the most complete spinal column of any early human relative, including vertebrae, neck and rib cage. The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate that portions of the human spinal structure that enable efficient walking motions were established millions of years earlier than previously thought. (2017-05-22)

Grassy beginning for earliest Homo
Following the discovery of the Ledi-Geraru jaw, an environmental study of the eastern African Plio-Pleistocene was conducted to investigate the long-standing hypotheses that the transition from Australopithecus to Homo was linked to the spread of more open and arid environments. Data indicate that the Ledi-Geraru Research Project area in the Lower Awash Valley and Omo-Turkana Basin were largely similar, but important environmental differences existed at the time of earliest Homo (~ 2.8 Ma). (2017-05-15)

Human skull evolved along with two-legged walking, study confirms
The evolution of bipedalism in fossil humans can be detected using a key feature of the skull -- a claim that was previously contested but now has been further validated by researchers at Stony Brook University and the University of Texas at Austin. (2017-03-17)

Bone scans suggest early hominin 'Lucy' spent significant time in trees
Scans of bones from 'Lucy,' the 3.18 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis fossil, suggest that the relative strength of her arms and legs was in between that of modern chimpanzees and modern humans, according to a study published Nov. 30, 2016, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Christopher Ruff from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, USA, and colleagues. (2016-11-30)

Leading anthropologist Professor Lee Berger to give Kent's 2016 Stirling Lecture
The University of Kent's 2016 Stirling Lecture will be given by world renowned American-born South African paleoanthropologist Professor Lee Berger, University of Witwatersrand, on Tuesday Nov. 8. (2016-11-03)

Bloodthirsty brains
South African and Australian researchers calculated how blood flowing to the brain of human ancestors changed over course of time. The team was able to track the increase in human intelligence across evolutionary time. (2016-08-31)

Smarter brains are blood-thirsty brains
A University of Adelaide-led project has overturned the theory that the evolution of human intelligence was simply related to the size of the brain -- but rather linked more closely to the supply of blood to the brain. (2016-08-30)

More gorilla than chimp
A new study that for the first time examined the internal anatomy of a fossil human relative's heel bone, or calcaneus, shows greater similarities with gorillas than chimpanzees. (2016-08-11)

How did primate brains get so big?
Virtual brains reconstructed from ancient, kiwi-sized primate skulls could help resolve one of the most intriguing evolutionary mysteries: how modern primates developed large brains. (2016-08-11)

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