Most Complete Ape-Man Skull Unveiled

Article excerpt

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Paleontologists announced yesterday the discovery of the most complete ape-man skull ever excavated, a 1.5 million- to 2 million-year-old skull of a female Paranthropus robustus, a cousin of early man.

The fossil was found beside the lower jaw of a male in "one of the most extraordinary finds that any paleoanthropologist has ever seen," said Lee Berger, director of the paleoanthropology unit at the University of Witwatersrand.

The finds, named for the mythological lovers Orpheus and Eurydice, will give researchers their best opportunity to compare the differences between males and females of the species, said Andre Keyser, the paleontologist in charge of the site where the fossils were found.

"They represent a creature that was in direct competition with our earliest ancestors," Keyser said.

Researchers had never been sure what a female Paranthropus robustus looked like, Keyser said. Now they know that females were smaller than males, had smaller teeth and was missing a crest on the top of the skull that anchored the lower jaw muscles, a difference common to male and female gorillas, Keyser said. …