(Credit: Scott Williams)

In 2010, the first specimens of a new hominin species, Australopithecus sediba, were described in Science.  The finds were discovered in Malapa Cave, and date to approximately 1.98 million years ago, around the same time that the genus Homo emerged.  The fossil specimens display a mosaic of Homo-like and Australopith-like traits.  Of particular interest is the indication of upright walking in A. sediba, albeit in a manner distinct from modern humans and other fossil bipedal hominins.

In order to better understand A. sediba’s unusual morphology and provide a clearer picture of its bipedal activities, Dr. Scott Williams is conducting ongoing research on the vertebral column of this species.  The spinal column plays a central role in posture, locomotion, and overall trunk stability and mobility.  Dr. Williams research is a key component in understanding A. sediba’s unique bipedal practices, and has important implications for understanding the role bipedalism played in the development of the human lineage.