Australopithecus sediba – Ancient Hominid Fossil Named by South African Student

A name suggested by a seventeen-year old student at St Mary’s school in Waverley, Johannesburg (South Africa), has been chosen by a team of scientists as the official “nick-name” of a 1.95 million year-old hominid fossil.  Many palaeontologists give names to the specimens that they are working on, whether it be a prehistoric animal, a dinosaur or even a fossil of an ancient hominid.  There is no precedence for doing this as far as we at Everything Dinosaur understand, however, having worked long hours on an individual specimen we can recognise the feeling of attachment that this brings.  Also, when referring to the specimen, it is all very well to use the official specimen nomenclature in literature, but nick-names are so much easier to comprehend when having a conversation.

For example, the Tyrannosaurus rex museum specimen TMP 81.6.1was nick-named “Black Beauty” due to the jet-black colour of the bones, a result of manganese deposited by the surrounding groundwater.

The recently discovered hominid skeleton, representing a new species of Australopithecine (Australopithecus sediba) was given the name “Karabo” in an announcement made yesterday (June 1st), during the seventh annual Standard Bank Past (Palaeontological Science Trust) key lecture by Professor Lee Berger.

The Skull of Australopithecus sediba

Picture: Mike Hutchings/Credit: Reuters

It was Professor Berger’s young son, Matthew who made the discovery of this important fossil, appropriate as Matthew was nine at the time and the fossil remains have been identified as being from a 9-13 year-old male.  The fossils were found at a site in Gauteng Province (South Africa), known as the “Cradle of Humankind”.  The site has twelve or so limestone caves that have preserved the remains of ancient animals, plants and perhaps, most importantly of all – ancient hominids.  The name “Karabo”, which means “answer” in a native South African dialect was submitted by 17-year old St Mary’s pupil, Omphemetse Keepile.  It beat more than 15,000 other entries, submitted by students and pupils from schools, colleges and universities from all over South Africa.

A second partial skeleton of Australopithecus sediba has been found, this time scientists believe the bones are from an adult female.

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