Temporal evidence shows Australopithecus sediba is unlikely to be the ancestor of Homo

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Du, Andrew; Alemseged, Zeresenay
Year of Publication: 2019
Journal: Science Advances
Volume: 5
Issue: 5
Pagination: eaav9038
Date Published: 2019/05/01
Publication Language: eng

Understanding the emergence of the genus Homo is a pressing problem in the study of human origins. Australopithecus sediba has recently been proposed as the ancestral species of Homo, although it postdates earliest Homo by 800,000 years. Here, we use probability models to demonstrate that observing an ancestor’s fossil horizon that is at least 800,000 years younger than the descendant’s fossil horizon is unlikely (about 0.09% on average). We corroborate these results by searching the literature and finding that within pairs of purported hominin ancestor–descendant species, in only one case did the first-discovered fossil in the ancestor postdate that from the descendant, and the age difference between these fossils was much less than the difference observed between A. sediba and earliest Homo. Together, these results suggest it is highly unlikely that A. sediba is ancestral to Homo, and the most viable candidate ancestral species remains Australopithecus afarensis.

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav9038
Short Title: Sci Adv