Australopithecus sediba fossils have sparked scientific debate since it was discovered on the Malapa Fossil Site in South Africa 10 years ago.
And now researchers have determined that they are closely related to the genus Homo, representing the connecting species between early humans and their predecessors, proving that early humans still swung from trees 2 million years ago.
The Malapa site, South Africa's "Cradle of Humankind", was found accidentally by nine-year-old Matthew Berger when he chased his dog.
These findings help fill gaps in the history of mankind, sliding between the famous 3 million-year-old "Lucy" skeleton and "ordinary human" Homo habilis, which were found using tools between 1.5 and 2.1 million years ago. .
They show that early humans in the period "spent a lot of time climbing trees, maybe to forage and protect from predators," according to research in the journal "Paleoanthropology."
"This larger picture explains the life of A. sediba and also the great transition in the evolution of hominins," said lead researcher Scott Williams of New York University.
& # 39; There is still a lot to be found & # 39;
Two partial australopith skeletons – a man and woman – were discovered in 2008 in a cave that collapsed in Malapa, in the "African Cradle of Humankind".
"Australopithecus" means "southern ape," the hominin genus that lived between 4 and 2 million years ago.
Their findings sparked years of debate in the scientific community, with some rejecting the idea that they belonged to species not previously found with close links to the homo genus and others floated the idea that they came from two different species simultaneously.
But new research has put these suggestions to rest, and outlines "many features" of the framework shared with fossils from the homo genus.
The hands and feet of Australopithecus sediba, for example, show that he spent a lot of time climbing trees. The hand has the ability to capture, which is more advanced than Homo habilis, showing that too, is the user of the initial tool.
The researchers from this paper highlighted the extraordinary story of how the fossils were discovered, showing that other dramatic clues about the history of humanity are still waiting to see the light of day.
"Au's first fossil. Sediba was discovered by Matthew Berger, who was then nine years old, who happened to stop and examine the stone that tripped while following his dog Tau far from the Malapa pit," they wrote.
"Imagine for a moment that Matthew tripped over a rock and continued to follow his dog without noticing fossils," they added.
"If these events occur, our science will not know about Au. Sediba, but the fossils will remain, still wrapped in calcified clastic sediments, still waiting to be discovered."
"The accidental discovery of Malapa fossils and other new discoveries that happen also must be a reminder to all of us that there is still much to be discovered about our evolutionary past," the authors concluded.