South African fossil discovery sheds light on human evolution

Jeremy DeSilva

In August of 2008, a 9-year-old boy made a remarkable discovery near Johannesburg, South Africa, when he came upon the skeletal remains of an entirely new kind of early human species, that of the Australopithecus sediba. 

Boston University functional morphologist Jeremy DeSilva will discuss this “Two million-year-old surprise from South Africa” when he visits Mercyhurst University on Thursday, March 14. His talk on human evolution, an offering of the university’s anthropology department,  begins at 5 p.m. in room 314 of Zurn Hall on the Mercyhurst campus. It is free and open to the public.

 The fossils discovered by this young boy date back two million years when the genus of human ancestors known as Australopithecus was just giving way to a new group called Homo, which would eventually produce Homo sapiens, or modern humans.

Hundreds of fossils, including two relatively complete skeletons, have since been unearthed. In his talk, DeSilva will present what we currently know, and do not know, about this new kind of early human. What were they? How did they die? What did they eat? How did they move? Where do they fit in our family tree?

This is not only a wonderful story of discovery, but a spectacular awakening that human evolution was much more complex and interesting than we ever imagined.

DeSilva’s research interest is in piecing together the lives of early human ancestors. His particular anatomical expertise – the evolution of the human foot and ankle – has contributed to the ongoing debate of Australopithecine locomotion. He has studied wild chimpanzees in Uganda, and has studied early human fossils from sites all over Africa.

 For more information on DeSilva’s visit, please contact Kathi Staaf at 814-824-3119.


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