Discovery of a New Fossil Anthropoid in South Africa

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    Abstract

    IN another column of this issue of NATURE (p. 486) there appears a communication from Dr. R. Broom, of the Transvaal Museum, Pretoria, in which he records the circumstances of discovery in July last of the skull of a new type of fossil anthropoid in South Africa, and goes on to give a preliminary report on the more striking and significant anatomical characters of his find, so far as these are patent at this early stage of examination. The specimen, as was almost inevitably the consequence of its discovery in the course of blasting operations, is fragmentary; but fortunately for the student of the palaeontology of man and the anthropoids, those parts which have been found, especially the teeth and the forward parts of the brain cast, are among the most significant for determining the relation of the new fossil to previously known forms. Further and this is a matter of considerable momentit is at once apparent that not only do these fragments belong to a new type of anthropoid, but also the teeth are those of an adult individual. Hence, as Dr. Broom points out, his find confirms the interpretation which has been placed upon Prof. Dart's Taungs skull, which is infantile, and establishes it by the side of this new and related specimen from the Sterkfontein caves, as “not closely allied to either gorilla or chimpanzee”, but “on or near the line by which man has arisen”. Dr. Broom, however, considers that he is justified in regarding his new form as differing specifically from Australopithecus, while it is probably later, belonging to the Upper Pleistocene. The further implication of his discovery is indicated when, referring to the resemblance in the teeth to those of Dryopithecus rhenanus, he emphasizes the fact that a South African Pleistocene form, showing “a number of typical human characters, not met with in any of the living anthropoids”, stands in distinct relationship to the Pliocene fossil apes and especially to the Pliocene Dryopithecus of Europe, which some palaeontologists have regarded as one of the most important links in the chain of relationship between the fossil apes of Europe, Egypt and Northern India and the earliest form of man.

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