THE FOSSILISED remains of the world's oldest humans have been discovered in East Africa. They represent the missing link between apes and early humans.
The fossils, which are 4.4 million years old, predate any other human fossils so far found by about half a million years. They consist of 50 early hominid bone fragments and teeth from 17 to 20 individuals.
Among the discoveries by a joint American-Japanese-Ethiopian expedition in eastern Ethiopia are fragments of skulls, limbs and jaws dating from the period after the evolutionary split between apes and humans, 4.5 to 7 million years ago. They are the most important early human find for 20 years.
The discovery is announced today in Nature, the London-based scientific magazine. Professor Tim White, of the University of California at Berkeley, joint leader of the expedition, says the find is "the oldest known link in the evolutionary chain that connected us to the common ancestor we share with modern African apes".
The bones provide the world's earliest evidence of bipedalism - moving around on two legs instead of four - which is one of the first evolutionary steps marking the change from ape to human. …