Saturday, September 17, 2011

Question of the Week: So what exactly is sediba?

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September 17, 2011

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Q: So what exactly is sediba?

A: Last Thursday, scientists published a series of articles providing a detailed analysis of a relatively new alleged human ancestor—Australopithecus sediba. The pair of fairly complete skeletons from an adult female and juvenile male was subjected to a comprehensive analysis of the skull/brain, pelvis, hand, and foot/ankle to enable scientists to understand where this hominid fits in human evolutionary history. Rather than providing clues to human ancestry (as the news headlines claim), Australopithecus sediba makes the human evolutionary story much more complicated. Indeed, characteristics of Au. sediba support the creationist case of created kinds and the idea that the Australopithecines represent an extinct kind of arboreal (tree-dwelling) ape.
As frequently occurs with newly discovered hominid fossils, scientists and especially the news media have promoted the find as providing clear evidence of how humans evolved. Au. sediba is the latest example of a "missing link."
In spite of certain human-like characteristics—many of which are consistent with tree dwelling—the overwhelming evidence is that Au. sediba was a type of Australopithecine and thus an extinct ape rather than a human ancestor.

Continue reading our analysis of Australopithecus sediba.

News to Note Quick Look

Dinosaur dead in its tracks: Languishing for half a century in a Polish Museum, an ordinary Protoceratops sat on its secret until paleontologists needed an exhibit for the Polish Academy of Science. While preparing the specimen, Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki and Tomasz Singer noticed a matching footprint fossilized beneath the dinosaur's pelvic bones. The dinosaur fossil came from the Gobi Desert, which is home to many fossilized footprints, but none like this one. Read more.

Landlubber fish: Many fish have an amphibious streak in their behavior, but the Pacific leaping blenny is "one of the rare living examples of a fish that spends the vast majority of its time on land." The blenny is native to intertidal zones on the rocky coasts of Micronesia. Because the blenny has "made a highly successful transition to land," Dr. Terry Ord spent some time observing the blenny's behavior hoping to discover some evolutionary secrets of our aquatic past. Read more.


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