Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ancient ape ruled out of man’s ancestral line

08.12.2006
ANCIENT remains, once thought to be a key link in the evolution of mankind, have now been shown to be 400,000 years too young to be a part of man’s family tree.

The remains of the apeman, dubbed Little Foot, were discovered in a cave complex at Sterkfontein by a local South African team in 1997. Its bones preserved in sediment layers, it is the most complete hominid fossil skeleton ever found.

Little Foot is of the genus Australopithecus, thought by some to be part of the ancestral line which led directly to man. But research by Dr Jo Walker and Dr Bob Cliff of the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, with Dr Alf Latham of Liverpool University's School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, shows the remains are more than a million years younger than earlier estimates.

The team used uranium lead chronology to date the remains. Working on extracts of stalagmite deposits from immediately above and below the body, they dated the skeleton at around 2.2 million years old.

Their findings, published in the American journal Science, are controversial. Earlier estimates had put the age of Little Foot at three to four million years old placing it potentially on a direct line to humans.

The first recognisable stone tools appeared in Africa around 2.6 million years ago, but they were not made by Australopiths. Rather it is thought the first tool maker was Homo habilis, whose evolution is believed to have led directly to man. Rather than being older than Homo habilis – and a possible direct ancestor – Little Foot is more likely a distant cousin.

His remains are cemented in hard mineral deposits in the Sterkfontein cave complex which has yielded a number of other ancient finds. It is thought he either fell down a shaft or somehow got trapped in the cave and died there to be covered by the sediment layers from which he is now being slowly extracted. These sediments are themselves sandwiched between stalagmite layers which provided the materials for the dating process.

Australopithecus walked on two legs, but stood just 130cm tall and had a brain comparable in size with a modern chimpanzee. As Dr Walker explained: “In many of these finds, the smallest bones have disintegrated, but here the feet and hands are well preserved - and these could enable researchers to show how well adapted this early primate was to walking on two feet.”

But the sediment encasing Little Foot is harder than the bone – making extracting him a painstaking process for the South African team.

And Drs Latham and Cliff have now turned their own attention to further Australopith findings at Makapansgat, also in South Africa, where other specimens of Australopithecus have been found.

Simon Jenkins | alfa
Further information:
http://www.leeds.ac.uk

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute

nachricht Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>