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 eruptions using satellites and math
28.06.2017 | Frontiers

nachricht NASA sees quick development of Hurricane Dora
27.06.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer Researchers Develop High-Pressure Sensors for Extreme Temperature

28.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Zeolite catalysts pave the road to decentral chemical processes Confined space increases reactivity

28.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Extensive Funding for Research on Chromatin, Adrenal Gland, and Cancer Therapy

28.06.2017 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>