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Possible New Hominid Species Discovered, Thanks To Google Earth 86

Posted by timothy
from the but-not-street-view dept.
mindbrane writes "The BBC is reporting on fossil finds 'uncovered in cave deposits near Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg.' The fossils of a mature female and juvenile male have '...small teeth, projecting nose, very advanced pelvis, and long legs ...' suggesting more modern forms. 'And yet its very long arms and small brain case might echo the much older Australopithecine group to which Professor Berger and colleagues have assigned it.' Aside from the debate as to classification, the find is noteworthy in that its discovery came about 'thanks to the "virtual globe" software Google Earth, which allowed the group to map and visualise the most promising fossil grounds in the World Heritage Site.' Further, the find in a cave bears the hallmarks of chance that often plays so large a part in fossilisation. 'Their bones were laid down with the remains of other dead animals, including a sabre-toothed cat, antelope, mice and rabbits. The fact that none of the bodies appear to have been scavenged indicates that all died suddenly and were entombed rapidly.'"
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Possible New Hominid Species Discovered, Thanks To Google Earth

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @07:38AM (#31787734)

    very advanced pelvis

    Dear Professor, I am intrigued by your findings and wish to learn more, how can I subscribe to your newsletter?

    • by Xest (935314)

      It had built in accelerometers and GPS that fed back to the beings legs so that they could use their brain for other things than menial tasks like travelling to where they want to be.

      Oh, and it had laser blasters on the sides too.

  • thanks to the "virtual globe" software Google Earth, which allowed the group to map and visualise the most promising fossil grounds

    These are scientists who busy themselves with "finding stuff at locations". Did they really not have access to map software that offered similar features long before Google Earth?

    • Re:Why Google Earth? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xest (935314) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:02AM (#31787860)

      I think you'd be suprised, there seems to be a similar trend in other universities, I think it's because many departments run on shoe string budgets, and GIS was often an expense they couldn't afford.

      Now it's available free to them, and cross platform so they can make use of it anywhere from their desktop to their laptop at home to their mobile phone/PDA in the field.

      A friend who is a botanist working at a university in Brazil makes heavy use of it along with the rest of his department to map various plant species, and their spread and decline as a tool for helping map the discovery and decline of species, as well as acting as an aid to give clues as to how newly discovered, or previously poorly classified species might be classified or re-classified taxonomically. It helps give clues to where hybridisation may have led to new distinct species and so forth.

      It's a tool his department simply didn't have before, but perhaps that's part of it too. Those who are experts in one field, don't necessarily know enough to know tools like this even exist, until companies like Google make them popular and put them in the public eye. When those experts do see these tools they realise how utterly useful they are- remember, not everyone knows enough about computers to know what's out there, or to realise the many ways in which they can assist their day to day work.

      Advancement of the tools matters too- phones/pdas with built in GPS and access to these applications, cameras that tag photos with GPS coordinates, cheaper than ever GPS devices and so on all increase the attractiveness and ease of use of these apps where people may previously have found them too difficult or too much hassle to work with over their existing methods too I suppose.

      • by corbettw (214229)

        Google has now helped build upon our understanding of we came from, as a species. They are officially off my shit list.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Because Google Earth is a quantum leap in Atlas technology.

      Prior to Google Earth/Maps, the dominant atlas technology was, well, Atlases; Big hefty books with discrete resolutions, fixed orientations, no hyper-linking(obviously), nice indices but no search functionality, oh and finally, they were super expensive. Google Earth is an improvement on the Atlas in every conceivable sense of the world, especially the most important ones; usability and accessibility. And the proof of this fact is in the increased a

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Google is delivering us the technologies sci-fi was promising over 60 years ago. It's delivering them because it understands that immediate and all consuming lust for payment and profit is not always the best way to improve technology or its use.

        And, ironically enough, it's making money hand over fist [yahoo.com] as a result.

        But yeah, all those old "cyber-space" things have pretty much been superceded. The one thing we still don't have is faster-than-light travel and nuclear fusion. Two things: FTL travel, nuclear fus

      • Uh, it has nothing to do with that - that's one reason google earth is great, yes, but that's not why scientists are increasingly using it for GIS-type work.

        These scientists already had detailed maps of the areas they're working on. Believe me, they weren't carrying around big hefty atlases with them - that's a ridiculous thought.

        Even scientists in heavily geographical fields (like mine, geology) aren't always familiar with computers. Xest already hit the nail on the head here, and I won't reiterate his pos

  • The researchers identified the fossils of at least 25 other species of animals, including saber-toothed cats, a wildcat, a brown hyena, a wild dog, antelopes, and a horse in the cave as well.

    Also, I thought this was interesting:

    "Before this discovery, you could pretty much fit the entire record of fossils that are candidates for the origin of the genus Homo from this time period onto a small table. But, with the discovery of Australopithecus sediba and the wealth of fossils we've recovered -- and are recovering* -- that has changed dramatically," Berger said.

    Keep digging guys!!!

    *bold mine

  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Friday April 09, 2010 @07:59AM (#31787846)

    Their bones were laid down with the remains of other dead animals, including a sabre-toothed cat, antelope, mice and rabbits. The fact that none of the bodies appear to have been scavenged indicates that all died suddenly and were entombed rapidly

    I'm imagening, as they used caves for living and spoiling a decent cave giving protection and housing was used as a "burial" or dumpster is unlikely, the cave was uninhabitable by humans for one or another reason. A likely scenario seems to be that the young and unknowingly couple ran off to have some funky frisky time, ended up in a cave inhabited by preditors and got owned. A predator yet unknown, but one that can eat animals from the size of a mouse up to a sabretooth tiger without biting marks.

    As there are no biting marks or "scavenging", or disallowing inhabitation it must've been a might impressive beast eating those creatures without teeth. I propose a blob of ooze or slime which liquified, slowly and horribly, those creatures alive while holding them down with their tentacles of doom while floating in the air with lighteningbols-shooting eyes.

    • You, sir, have a lively imagination.

    • I imagine (Score:5, Funny)

      by killmenow (184444) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:19AM (#31787944)
      Upon entering the cave it is pitch dark. Therefore, they all were eaten by a grue.
      • by CODiNE (27417)

        If it was Pitch Black Vin Diesel killed them by swiftly connecting a blade with the sweet spot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bearhouse (1034238)

      Or it could be more prosaic, like a release of toxic gas...

      http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/index.php [usgs.gov]

    • Why not a grue? Its slavering fangs would neatly slice the meat clean off of the bone without nicking or breaking the bones. I would daresay that a mature grue, taking its time (and a certain amount of pride) with its work could reasonably be expected to consume an adolescent human without disturbing the skeleton.
    • by Mirkman (1720140)
      No really though in all seriousness i think your onto something Zero. If we step back and look at the evidence objectively, Its easy to see that we may be dealing with the victims of either an ancient Beholder or Illithid. I think this cave definitely needs more investigation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      Geology fail: it's not a cave, it's a Sarlacc pit.
    • by irtza (893217)
      a flying spaghetti monster? Is this the proof the church [venganza.org] has needed? Maybe this will cause disheavel and split the followers into the flying slime camp vs the orthodox pastrafarians.
    • Sounds like an offering to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster...
    • by AlecC (512609)

      TFA suggest that the bodies were washed into an inaccessible cave by a sudden flood, and the ages of the skeletons are compatible with mother/son.

      Sorry to rain on your parade, but never assume conspiracy when cockup will do.

      • the ages of the skeletons are compatible with mother/son.

        It's just coincidence the two bodies are together. It was actually a lower level cave, and the upper cave collapsed into it due to an earthquake.

        If they dig a little more they'll find a pile of extremely dirty rabbit-fur duds, a heap of bark containers with traces of mammoth fat and a bearskin that's large enough to sleep on; underneath it some charcoal & ochre drawings are reverentially arranged - some say hidden. Smears of a crusty substance

    • by dasunt (249686)

      I'm imagening, as they used caves for living and spoiling a decent cave giving protection and housing was used as a "burial" or dumpster is unlikely, the cave was uninhabitable by humans for one or another reason. A likely scenario seems to be that the young and unknowingly couple ran off to have some funky frisky time, ended up in a cave inhabited by preditors and got owned. A predator yet unknown, but one that can eat animals from the size of a mouse up to a sabretooth tiger without biting marks.

      As the

  • Millions of years ago, Africa was a continent teeming with life and different varieties of life. As the continents shifted and mountain ranges like the Himalayas rose to block crucial winds to Saharan Africa, the lucky species were able to get out and into Europe and Asia. The not so lucky ones dried up in the desert or learned to survive in the lean environment of the savanna. As European and Asian lifeforms grew more diverse, this giant continent became a sort of Lost World separated from the rest of the

  • The defining characteristic of science is that it needs to be able to make testable predictions.

    And to test whether or not evolution is valid science, I suggest the following evolutionist-worldview based prediction: Half of creationists will categorize this fossil as fully human, the other half will classify it as fully ape.

    -

  • I never cease to be amazed and geekily interested in the vast number of applications that people find with for Google maps & earth data.
    That and the GPS are, for me, great examples of the gov/military and private enterprise really giving something back to the community.
    Now if only we can have street maps & associated guidance software of the same quality as the commercial stuff.
    http://www.openstreetmap.org/ [openstreetmap.org] is a good start, but it has a long way to go...

    • by garcia (6573)

      It never ceases to amaze me that people do not put together that free software is far superior to pay-for software. This type of data has always been available, for high cost, to those who were able to acquire it (ArcView for example) and be trained to use it. With the advent of Google Earth people can still access much of that ArcView stuff (with SHP2KML conversion) and use this information for a wide range of research.

      Say what you want about Google's privacy scares but some of the shit they've put out is

    • I never cease to be amazed and geekily interested in the vast number of applications that people find with for Google maps & earth data

      I never cease, but that's probably because I never start.

      The story is basically "Some foobarologists used a computer a bit".

      Coming up later, "Grahite solves the DNA conundrum!" And why not - I'm sure Watson & Crick owned at least one pencil between them.

    • by AlecC (512609)

      As a long time reader of Science Fiction, I am interested that no SF writer (to my knowledge) ever predicted GPS. They predicted many other things that we now have (and, of course, tons of stuff that we don't have and probably never will have). But nobody seems ever realized how useful it is to have a device that quietly, cheaply, and easily tells you exactly where you are. Possibly they never put it together with the other necessary component for most applications: cheap, fast, low power storage of a few h

      • by bhagwad (1426855)
        I'm reading Asimov's works and I'm always surprised that he never predicted:

        1. The Internet - he had scientists creating an "Encyclopedia Galactica" when it was feared that all science knowledge would be lost. We just use Wikipedia!
        2. Cellphones - Trimensional viewing is horribly inconvenient. Often the characters don't know where others are. Now we just give them a call
        3. Ebooks - He predicted film strips which are inconvenient and need to be borrowed from a library. Nuff said.

        He wrote some m
  • The fact that none of the bodies appear to have been scavenged indicates that all died suddenly and were entombed rapidly.

    Either that or all the animals fell into a hole and became trapped over the course of a few years.

  • I saw the headline, and immediately thought that Google Earth had finally got around to photographing Falkirk [wikia.com]
  • When this came out on the local news websites yesterday, a few claimed these finds where "a new species of ancient descendants of modern-day humans" (*), along with other bad logic/grammar. My first thought is that these might have been the love children of one one Julius Malema [wikipedia.org]. Then again, it might just have been that the journalists have procreated....

    (* = In the mean time edited and corrected, but at the moment still viewable on this British site [inthenews.co.uk]. Or in Google's caches [google.com]).

  • Maybe it was some sort of burial ritual? Just an idea.
    • by AlecC (512609)

      Strange burial that buries people with miscellaneous wildlife. While it has been known for people to be buried with pets, it is usually just one or two. And known burial rituals only data back about 50,000 years, whereas these are just under 2 million.

      TFA suggest they were washed into an inaccessible cave system by a sudden flood.

  • Scientists have been using aerial photography for such purposes practically since the dawn of aviation (when it was noticed that things could be seen from the air that couldn't from the ground).

  • This quote from Matthew Berger, son of Professor Lee Berger, was posted on Good Morning Silicon Valley today.

    http://blogs.siliconvalley.com/gmsv/2010/04/quoted-matt-i-told-you-to-stop-playing-around-while-were-whoa.html [siliconvalley.com]

    “I turned the rock over and I saw the clavicle sticking out — that’s the collar bone. I didn’t know what it was at first; I thought it was just an antelope. So I called my dad over and about five meters away he started swearing, and I was like ‘What did I do wron

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