Department of Anthropology
Texas A&M University
Australopithecus sediba: a New Species of Homo-like Australopith from South Africa
Monday, September 27, 2010
Lecture Hall 2, 5:00 PM
Work in Plio-Pleistocene deposits at the newly discovered site of Malapa, South Africa has resulted in the recovery of several partial skeletons attributable to a new species we have named Australopithecus sediba. These specimens represent a rare case of Plio-Pleistocene hominins found in direct association with one another and in good geological context. The overall body plan is that of a hominin at an australopith adaptive grade, though several characters of the cranium and pelvis are clearly derived toward Homo. Combined craniodental and postcranial evidence demonstrates that this new species shares more derived features with specimens attributed to early Homo than any other australopith species known. In particular, it appears that cranial reorganization preceded cranial expansion, and that post-canine tooth reduction occurred before the rearrangement of the cusps that marks early Homo. A. sediba represents a transitional form intermediate between the australopiths and Homo, and calls into question the taxonomic assignment of several prominent fossils.
Dr. de Ruiter is a paleoanthropologist specializing in the early hominins of South Africa. He has been involved in excavations at several sites in South Africa such as Swartkrans, Kromdraai, Makapansgat, Coopers, Taung, Plovers Lake and Gondolin, as well as from the Koro Toro and Kossum Bogoudi regions of Chad. Dr. de Ruiter is one of the principal researchers at the newly discovered site of Malapa in South Africa. As the lead cranio-dental specialist, he is responsible for the analysis of the crania, jaws and teeth of the recently announced species Australopithecus sediba. He is also the lead specialist in charge of the isotopic analysis of the Malapa hominins. Apart from fossil hominins, Dr. de Ruiter focuses his research on the faunal communities to which the early hominins belonged in order to better understand their ecology and environments, and how fluctuations in animal composition were impacted by climatic and environmental instability.