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New Fossil Shows Ancient Human Relative "Walked Like Humans And Climbed Like Apes"

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An international team of scientists from New York University, the University of the Witwatersrand and 15 other institutions announced today in the open-access journal eLife the discovery of two-million-year-old fossil vertebrae from an extinct species of ancient human relative.

The discovery was announced after scientists probed into the lower back bones unearthed in 2015 that were attributed to a female Australopithecus sediba, a type of ancient hominid. Nicknamed “Issa,” researchers say that the creature’s new lower backbone fossils indicate that early hominids used their upper limbs to climb like primates, while their legs, or lower limbs, facilitated a human-like walk.

Found excavations of a mining trackway running next to the site of Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, near Johannesburg, the fossils were carefully prepared to avoid damage and then they were reintegrated with the fossils found near the site earlier.

"While Issa was already one of the most complete skeletons of an ancient hominin ever discovered, these vertebrae practically complete the lower back and make Issa's lumbar region a contender for not only the best-preserved hominin lower back ever discovered, but also probably the best-preserved," said Professor Lee Berger, an author on the study and leader of the Malapa project.

Berger suggests that the curvature of Issa’s spine is more extreme than the curvature of regular Australopithecus, and it hints toward strong adaptations to bipedalism.

"While the presence of lordosis (the inward curve of the lumbar spine) and other features of the spine represent clear adaptations to walking on two legs, there are other features, such as the large and upward oriented transverse processes, that suggest powerful trunk musculature, perhaps for arboreal behaviours," said Professor Gabrielle Russo of Stony Brook University, another author on the study.

Source: BBC