Good teeth at the heart of sexiness, evolution shows

Media release from Wits University 19 September 2016 An age-old secret that Hollywood celebrities try to keep from you has been uncovered… by palaeontologists. Hollywood celebrities spend large amounts of dollars on it. The hunky stud at the local pub thinks he knows it. But the age-old secret has been carefully kept for millions of … Continued


  A study that for the first time examined the internal anatomy of a fossil human relative’s heel bone, or calcaneus, showed greater similarities with gorillas than chimps. MEDIA RELEASE FROM WITS UNIVERSITY The study, titled: Trabecular architecture in the StW 352 fossil hominin calcaneus and published in the Journal of Human Evolution, was undertaken by … Continued


Cancer on a Paleo-diet? Ask someone who lived 1.7 million years ago.   Johannesburg, South Africa – an international team of researchers led by scientists from the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute and the South African Centre for Excellence in PalaeoSciences today announced in two papers, published in the South African Journal of … Continued

Turtles did not evolve shells for protection.

Eight-year-old South African boy discovers early turtle fossil that solves the mystery of why the turtle got its shell. It is common knowledge that the modern turtle shell is largely used for protection. No other living vertebrate has so drastically altered its body to form such an impenetrable protective structure as the turtle. However a … Continued

Breeding Young as a Survival Strategy during Earth’s Greatest Mass Extinction

Studies of the effects of mass extinctions on ancient ecosystems have focused on changes in taxic diversity, morphological disparity, abundance, behaviour and resource availability as key determinants of group survival. Crucially, the contribution of life history traits to survival during terrestrial mass extinctions has not been investigated, despite the critical role of such traits for … Continued

Sterkfontein Caves produce two new hominin fossils

Specimens from the Homo genus and can be associated with early stone tools dated to 2.18 million years ago. Download the Press Pack Two new hominin fossils have been found in a previously uninvestigated chamber in the Sterkfontein Caves, just North West of Johannesburg in South Africa. The two new specimens, a finger bone and … Continued

Early human ancestor didn’t have the jaws of a nutcracker

Biting too hard would have dislocated jaw of Australopithecus sediba Research published in 2012 garnered international attention by suggesting that a possible early human ancestor had lived on a diverse woodland diet including hard foods mixed in with tree bark, fruit, leaves and other plant products. But new research by an international team of researchers … Continued

South African scientists piece together ‘new dinosaur species’

  After 20 years of collecting fossils, team believes sauropod-like specimen, nicknamed Highland Giant, was largest animal to roam Karoo region Source: South African scientists piece together ‘new dinosaur species’ | Science | The Guardian

Homo naledi may have climbed trees, walked upright.

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, show that Homo naledi had unique Tarzan-features – climbing trees as well as walking upright. The two papers, titled: The foot of Homo naledi and The hand of Homo naledi, describe the structure and function of the H. naledi hand and foot. Taken together, the … Continued

New species of human relative discovered in South African cave

Fossils representing at least 15 individuals may alter views of human behaviour The discovery of a new species of human relative was announced today, 10 September 2015, by the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University), the National Geographic Society and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation of South Africa … Continued

Earliest baboon found at Malapa

A team from Wits University’s Evolutionary Studies Institute has discovered a fossil monkey specimen representing the earliest baboon ever found. Dating back more than 2 million years ago (between 2.026-2.36 million years ago), the partial skull was found at Malapa, in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, the same site where the partial skeletons … Continued

Meet Pulanesaura – The Rain Lizard

Wits PhD student Blair McPhee has described a new species of dinosaur in a paper to be published in Scientific Reports on 19 August 2015. The new dinosaur, named Pulanesaura eocollum, means the “Rain lizard”. According to the authors of the paper –  McPhee, Dr Matthew Bonnan (Stockton University), Dr Jonah Choiniere (Evolutionary Studies Institute … Continued

Discovering the genesis of our world: fragment by fragment

The south east coast of New South Wales contains a rich source of fish and plant fossils from the time when life moved from water to land and when forests first began to grow. A team of international scientists are studying the stories these fossils tell of a time of massive climate change and extinctions, … Continued

Tiny Prehistoric Ear Bone Shows Differences in Species

It has long been believed that the hearing bone called stapes, one of the smallest bones in ancestor of mammals, shows no differences between species. Now, Dr Leandro Gaetano and Professor Fernando Abdala from the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) have completed the first detailed and comprehensive analysis on the ear bone … Continued

With teeth like that, this pre-dinosaur vegetarian was no push over…

Head-butting and canine display during male-male combat first appeared some 270 million years ago Discovered four years ago, and following an updated and more in-depth study of the herbivorous mammalian ancestor, Tiarajudens eccentricus, researchers from Brazil and South Africa can now present a meticulous description of the skull, skeleton and dental replacement of this Brazilian … Continued

Species without boundaries: a new way to map our origins

The challenge we face after a century of extraordinary discoveries is pinning down the lineage and mapping the evolutionary route through which we as human beings got here. Read the full article at The Conversation: Species without boundaries: a new way to map our origins

‘Little Foot’ fossils found to be older than ‘Lucy’

A study by researchers from South Africa, the US, Canada and France has found that the famous Australopithecus fossil skeleton known as ‘Little Foot’ is around 1.47 million years older than was initially estimated and might therefore potentially represent a direct human ancestor. The finding, made possible by using an advanced dating method called isochron … Continued

Taung – Back to the drawing board?

The Taung Child, South Africa’s premier hominin discovered 90 years ago by Wits University Professor Raymond Dart, never seizes to transform and evolve the search for our collective origins. By subjecting the skull of the first australopith discovered to the latest technologies in the Wits University Microfocus X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) facility, researchers are now … Continued

Milestone for young dinosaur hunter

Barely two years after joining Wits University, Massachusetts native and dinosaur expert, Dr Jonah Choiniere, has become only the second palaeontologist to be awarded a P-rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF). He will be officially receiving his P-rating tonight (11 September 2014) at the 2014 NRF Awards Ceremony to be held in Johannesburg. The … Continued