UK Anatomy Professor Participated in Historic Fossil Project in South Africa

Sep 11, 2015

UK Associate Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology Andrew Deane
Credit Stu Johnson / WEKU News

A University of Kentucky anatomy and neurobiology professor was among the scientists who discovered hundreds of human-like skeletal fossils in South Africa.  The discovery is considered to be evidence of a new species of human relative.  Paleoanthropologist Andrew Deane says it’s hard to say where the fossils fit in.  “The human family tree is much more like a bush than it is a tree or a ladder," Deane explained. "There’s quite a bit of diversity there and quite a bit of variability in the human family.” 

Deane’s work focused on the hands and feet of the remains.  “When we look at the fingers, they’re relatively longer and more curved than we would expect for something that has hands that are this modern looking," he said. "So, it’s kind of an unusual mix of traits to have both this primitive and modern set of characters represented in the same hand.” 

The research project included the removal of 1,500 fossils from a cavern in South Africa.  Deane says it’s most unusual to find so many fossils at one place, at one time.