The team led by researchers from South Africa's lingo_link lingo_link_hidden" href="http://topics.breitbart.com/Uni...
Witwatersrand published its findings in the Friday issue of the U.S.
scientific magazine Science.
The researchers "discovered the two partial skeletons in cave deposits
at Malapa, South Africa, and analyzed the remains, including most of a
skull, pelvis, and ankle of the new species," the journal said.
Malapa is located some 15 kilometers north of the fossil hominid
sites, which are part of UNESCO's
World Heritage sites.
The newly documented species was an upright walker that shared many
physical traits with the earliest known species of Homo, the genus
that includes modern humans.
The new species was named Australopithecus sediba after the local
Sotho-language word meaning fountain or wellspring.
"The two Australopithecus sediba -- an adult female and a juvenile
male -- are between 1.95 and 1.78 million years old, and they were
found close together in a portion of the cave system that had been
protected from scavengers, so the fossils are very well-preserved," it
The skeletons were found from August to September in 2008. The female
was believed to be in her late 20s to early 30s, while the male was
estimated to be around 10 years old.
Both measure about 127 centimeters high and weigh about 30 kilograms.
The juvenile male's cranial capacity was small at 420-450 cubic cm.
The researchers describe the hominid's physical traits, highlighting
the unique pelvic features and small teeth that it shared with early
Homo species. Based on its physique, they suggest that the new species
descended from an older hominid, called Australopithecus africanus.
"Combined craniodental and postcranial evidence demonstrates that this
new species shares more derived features with early Homo than any
other australopith species and thus might help reveal the ancestor of
the genus," the team said in the journal.
The discovery "is now shedding new light on the evolution" of
sapiens, it said.