Co-Authored with the New Bing
Update: According to a direct response to this article, Dr. Berger says no announcement is coming…yet I remain skeptical!
Prof. Berger is known for is showmanship, and often times he likes to draw attention to his, and his teams discoveries. For good reason, as his discoveries have been some of the most important in the field over the last hundred years. With his work on Au. sediba, and H. naledi, it seems that there could be nothing else on the horizon, and yet – we may be in for a surprise.
Do we have the actual skin of an ancient hominin? From a few tweets on Twitter, we may have an answer soon, but first some background.
Australopithecus sediba is an extinct primate species that lived in southern Africa about two million years ago. It has a mix of primitive and modern features that suggest it may be a transitional form between the genus Australopithecus and the genus Homo. One of the most remarkable discoveries about this species is that it may have preserved some of the oldest human skin ever found.
In 2008, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger and his team found two partial skeletons of Australopithecus sediba at the Malapa cave site in South Africa. The fossils were exceptionally well-preserved, with bones, teeth, and even some soft tissues intact. Among the soft tissues, Berger noticed some dark patches on the bones that looked like skin impressions. He also found some thin flakes of material that resembled skin scales.
Is this a mold of Au sediba skin?
Berger and his colleagues have not yet confirmed that these are indeed skin remains, but they have some clues that support this hypothesis. For example, the dark patches match the shape and size of the bones underneath, and they are only found on parts of the body that would have been exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, and feet. The skin flakes also have a layered structure that is similar to human skin.
If these are indeed skin remains, they would be a remarkable discovery for paleoanthropology. They would provide a rare glimpse into the appearance and physiology of an early human ancestor. They would also offer a chance to study the evolution of skin pigmentation, hair distribution, sweat glands, and other features that are important for thermoregulation and protection from the environment.
The skin remains of Australopithecus sediba could also shed light on its behavior and lifestyle. For instance, the skin pigmentation could indicate how much time it spent in the sun, and whether it had any adaptations to cope with high levels of ultraviolet radiation. The hair distribution could reveal how much body heat it lost or retained, and whether it had any sexual dimorphism or social signaling. The sweat glands could show how efficient it was at cooling down, and whether it had any odor communication.
These are just some of the questions that could be answered by studying the skin remains of Australopithecus sediba. However, before any conclusions can be drawn, more tests need to be done to confirm their identity and authenticity. Berger and his team are planning to use various techniques, such as scanning electron microscopy, DNA analysis, and chemical tests, to verify their findings. They are also hoping to collaborate with experts from Copenhagen who specialize in ancient skin research.
The skin remains of Australopithecus sediba are a potential treasure trove for paleoanthropology. They could reveal new information about the evolution of human skin and its functions. They could also help us understand more about our ancient relatives and how they lived. They could change science forever.
So do we know what he has discovered or what he is leading us to believe? No, not yet, and we may not know for a little while, but as far as what I think this discovery that the professor is alluding to might be related to his previous announcements about sediba skin.
One thought on “Is Prof. Lee R. Berger About to Make a Huge Announcement?”
My name is Anita (she/hers/hers) and I’ve been followed your posts for a little bit both through your newsletter and on Youtube. I’m an undergraduate right now looking to explore the world of paleoanthropology and its connection with science. I wanted to ask, if you have the time, how testing on skin pigmentation can lead to results of sexual dimorphism? I think having that rare picture into the world millions of years ago is incredibly exciting — whatever it ends up being!
Anita from Colorado