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Senior Bertine Strauss found a home away from home with Texas golf. The characteristics she has gained from being far from home have helped her anchor the team for four years.
Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

For senior women’s golfer Bertine Strauss, the 9,000-mile plane ride home to Koster, South Africa, takes almost a full day. But the experiences she has gained from being so far from from home have only helped her lead Texas through the past three seasons.

“Being so far away from home forces you to be independent, go out of your comfort zone and try new things,” Strauss said.

Strauss takes all of these lessons to heart — and to the golf course, where she has continued to push herself to new heights and anchor the team. So far this season, Strauss has achieved a career-low 66 (-6) at the Schooner Fall Classic, where she also set a school record for the lowest three-round total, a 3-under 207.

In addition to playing well as an individual, Strauss has set the tone for the team this season. Of the seven tournaments the Longhorns have competed in, Strauss has been the low player five times. Off the course, she has been a leader in the clubhouse.

“This year, I’ve been leading by example,” Strauss said. “There are no freshmen on the team this year, so everyone is taken care of, and there’s no disruption.”

Despite her accomplishments this season, Strauss still thinks she can get better.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Strauss said. “In golf, you play against yourself and the course, and there’s always room for improvement.” 

Her improvement over her four years here at the University is easy to see. She has set new career lows every season while earning numerous accolades.

Strauss was named a 2014 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar and was on the Academic All-Big 12 First Team in both 2013 and 2014.

But these accomplishments are nothing in comparison to the valuable lessons and experiences she has learned while being away from home.

“It’s a luxury to be able to go home,” Strauss said. “I appreciate what UT has given me. It’s easy to see how well the University treats its athletes, and I’m thankful, especially considering what it’s like back in South Africa.”

The independence and motivation Strauss gained from her worldly perspective have also encouraged her to pursue other goals after she graduates in May. Come August, she plans on attempting to make the LPGA tour.

Before then, however, Strauss looks to finish the season strong. The Longhorns’ next tournament is the Texas-Hawaii Classic on March 21 at the Kapalua G. C. Bay Course in Kapalua, Hawaii.

“I’m definitely looking forward to Hawaii,” Strauss said. “Especially after last week, when I came in strong and was in contention the entire tournament.”

Ndeye Absa Gningue and Creesen Naicker are two of the 25 entrepreneurs visiting the University of Texas at Austin as part of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, aimed at teaching leadership skills for creating sustainable projects in their communities.

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Twenty–five young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa arrived at the University on Sunday to learn business and leadership skills for creating sustainable projects in their communities.

The Obama administration launched the Young African Leaders Initiative in 2010 with the goal of empowering the next generation of African youth to foster democracy and peace. As part of the initiative, the Washington Fellowship was launched in 2014. Out of 50,000 applicants, the fellowship selected 500 fellows to participate at one of the 20 fellowship campuses in the country. Twenty-five of the fellows will participate in the University’s six-week program offering entrepreneurs leadership training, networking opportunities and business courses.

Teri Albrecht, director of International Student and Scholar Services, said creating a space for African leaders to work together can help these young entrepreneurs face challenges such as corruption in business practices.

“They’re creating their own support network that they would not have had without this program,” Albrecht said. “Since the first week, they’ve been thinking of new ways and new ideas of how they can work with each other and support each other once they go back.”

Creesen Naicker, a fellow and director of the marketing and management company Vision RSM, spearheaded the YoungHeroes program, an initiative to incorporate sports into South African public school systems in 2004. Through the fellowship program at the University, Naicker hopes to develop a new community project, JumpStart, which would help prepare South Africa’s youth while they search for jobs. The unemployment rate in South Africa is at 25 percent, according to a CIA report. Naicker said young leaders in the fellowship program can inspire other young Africans to become agents of change in the communities.

“A lot of solutions to Africa’s problems are residing in Africa, sort of buried, much like the natural resources below the ground, where they’re there but the people don’t feel there’s enough freedom or democracy to activate their ideas,” Naicker said. “What each one of us being here can help do is be a little beacon of hope for how that can be done.“

Ndèye Absa Gningue, a fellow, as well as a designer and director of her clothing company, Aduuna Boul Comprendre, said she aspires to create a renewed interest in traditional African fashion and local textiles. Despite her accomplishments, she said she regularly encounters age and gender discrimination.

“Age is the first barrier,” Gningue said. “People [in Senegal] are generally quite conservative, meaning that they don’t want to give leadership to youth. Coming to gender, it’s difficult because people don’t think you can handle such a position because you’re a woman.”

Gningue said more women in Senegal, including Aminata Touré, who was appointed prime minister in 2013, are reaching higher positions. Despite this progress, she said there is still an absence of role models for youth.

“Today, the challenge I personally have is lack of leadership. In the young community, we cannot wake up and say, ‘This is the leader I want to look like,’” Gningue said. “This is why an opportunity like this is great, because you can get to find other females in the team and find other people who can help you.”

Naicker said youth in South Africa have also become frustrated by the lack of leadership in the private and public sector.

“Young people now want and expect better, but if that’s what you want and expect, then you have to step up and deliver it as well,” Naicker said.

Corrections: This article has been edited with the correct spelling of Nackier name and information about the program.

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s government says Nelson Mandela “continues to make steady improvement” as he spends a seventh day in a hospital being treated for a recurring lung infection that developed into pneumonia.

Admirers around the world have sent prayers and good wishes to the 94-year-old who helped end white minority rule and avoided civil war by his insistence on reconciliation despite being jailed for 27 years.

A brief government statement said Mandela “continues to respond satisfactorily to treatment.”

It said he has been visited by his family. Reporters saw his wife, Graca Machel, leave the hospital on Wednesday.

The government gave no indication when Mandela might leave the hospital. He contracted tuberculosis when he was jailed for 27 years by the apartheid government.

MARIKANA, South Africa (AP) — Lonmin miners celebrated a wage deal Wednesday that ended a deadly and prolonged strike but labor unrest continued with police firing rubber bullets and tear gas at strikers at a different platinum mine.

Some warned that the deal struck by Lonmin to give its 28,000 workers up to 22 percent pay raises would incite other miners to similar action. Lonmin also employs 10,000 contract workers not covered by the agreement.

“It sets a dangerous precedent and illegal actions to enforce wage increases could occur at other mines in future,” said Gideon du Plessis, head of the mainly white Solidarity mining union.

The Lonmin agreement reached Tuesday night does not resolve the union rivalry that was at the heart of the violence, nor the class struggle that it exposed between a small, politically connected black elite and the majority of impoverished South Africans who feel the government has failed to keep its promise of a better life for all.

And the political and economic fallout likely will hurt the re-election campaign of South African President Jacob Zuma, whom miners blame for the police shootings of 112 striking miners, which killed 34 on Aug. 16. The total number of those who died during the strike rose to 46 Wednesday when a woman died in hospital after being shot on Saturday when police raided the Wonderkop settlement, according to mediator Bishop Joe Seoka.

At the Lonmin mine at Marikana, the world’s third largest platinum mine, thousands gathered and sang the national anthem in piercing heat, holding up umbrellas to block the sun. Workers cheered and laughed as they walked into the mine stadium. Many hurt by the no-work, no-pay stoppage said they would be happy to return to work Thursday.

Lonmin agreed to a gross pay of 11,078 rand ($1,385) for rock drill operators who had been demanding a monthly take-home wage of 12,500 rand ($1,560). They also agreed to give all miners a 2,000 rand ($250) bonus for returning to work. A statement from the company said that miners will receive between 11 and 22 percent wage increases.

“If everyone is happy with the money, I am also happy with them because I am here to work for my children,” said miner Stan Chayisa.

“I am so happy,” said Mvenyeza Luhlaziyao, 48, a painter at the mines. “I try to forget the past and continue to move forward ... We must continue to build the company and management must listen to us in the future. People didn’t care about us, that’s why we decided to go on strike.”

Zolisa Bodlani, one of the strike leaders, said the agreement is noteworthy. “If no people were killed, I’d say this was a great achievement,” he said. “We’ve never in the history of South Africa had such an increase of pay as 22 percent.”

Two wives of winch operators expressed their pleasure that the strike had ended. “The weeks without pay were terrible,” said Plaxedes Matemba, a 39-year-old mother of two.

“It will make life better for us,” she said of the pay raise. “We expect better changes again ... there will be no more provoking, no more noise, no more beatings,” she said.

Still, many expressed anger toward the government, questioning Zuma’s leadership as he prepares for a crucial governing party congress in December that will decide whether he gets another term as leader of Africa’s richest economy.

They “brought the police to shoot us, so I don’t believe the current president of South Africa should be the president again. There must be change,” said miner Michael Maleswa.

Another, Johannes Hlkela, said “I don’t believe he (Zuma) should be president again because of the way he has killed people like animals.”

Strikers had spoken against the huge economic inequality and the government’s failure to address massive unemployment and poverty. Most Lonmin miners live in tin shacks without water or electricity.

The strike has highlighted the country’s widening gap between the majority poor and a small black elite enriched, often corruptly, through shares in mines.

Government plans in the aftermath of the brutal apartheid regime to share the wealth of a country that provides 75 percent of the world’s platinum, a fourth of its chrome and is in the top 10 of gold producers have made a small handful of blacks billionaires, joining a small white elite that continues to control an economy dominated by mineral resources and agriculture.

The exuberant crowd at Lonmin was addressed by Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the breakaway Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union that has poached thousands of members from the dominant, government-allied National Union of Mineworkers this year.

“From the 16th of August, you have known who are your proper leaders. Now you know who is the leader of the boardroom and who is the leader of the people,” he said. “The right leader is the one who comes forth to its people without security or bodyguards to talk to its members. The leader who is afraid to come forth to workers or miners, he is afraid because he knows what he has done.”

Many miners said they were angry at Zuma for not visiting the site of the police shootings when he belatedly came to address them.

The National Union of Mineworkers said the Lonmin deal will open the way for new demands from other miners.”

Spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the NUM will try to set up a forum with other mining companies.

“Of course this is going to set a precedent,” he said. “We want the companies to come together into bargaining so that we can deal with this thing. The challenge is going to be whether the other companies will be able to do 22 percent.”

At Anglo American Platinum’s Amplats mine near Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, some 400 to 500 strikers tried to march Wednesday. The workers at Amplats, the world’s biggest platinum mine, have said that they are better paid than Lonmin strikers and want even more than the Lonmin strikers’ demands for a monthly take-home salary of 12,500 rand ($1,560).

Police ordered the Amplats strikers to lay down their homemade weapons - machetes, spears and clubs. “Police asked them to disperse and when they wouldn’t, police used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd,” said police spokesman Dennis Adriao. “We’ve said from the start that we would not tolerate illegal gatherings.”

He said 19 people were arrested.

Zuma gave police the go-ahead for a crackdown on the strikers, further angering miners.

Anglo American Platinum spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said all five mines in Rustenburg had reopened Tuesday. But she refused to say how many miners have returned to work. Anglo released a statement late Wednesday that said legal avenues may be pursued for workers who do not return by Thursday’s night shift.

South Africa Press Association reported that the head of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Zwelinzima Vavi, left the group’s conference Wednesday to deal with a strike at Gold Fields’ Driefontein mine in Carletonville. It said that 15,000 workers have been on an illegal strike for 10 days.

Vavi said the mineworkers were also demanding a salary of 12,500 rand, according to SAPA. He said of Lonmin: “If those workers forced the hand of the company in that fashion through an unprotected strike, what stops Driefontein in doing the same,” according to SAPA, which also said that leaders from the National Union of Mineworkers went with Vavi to the mine.

JOHANNESBURG — About 270 miners at the Lonmin Platinum Mine in South Africa were charged Thursday with the murders of 34 striking colleagues who were shot by South African police officers, authorities said, a development that could further infuriate South Africans already shocked and angered by the police action.

The decision to charge the miners comes under an arcane Roman-Dutch common purpose law used under the apartheid regime, and it suggests President Jacob Zuma’s government wants to shift blame for the killings from police to the striking miners.

Firebrand politician Julius Malema, who has seized on the shootings to score political points, told supporters of miners outside the courthouse that the charges were “madness.”

“The policemen who killed those people are not in custody, not even one of them. This is madness,” said Malema, who was expelled from the governing African National Congress in April.

“The whole world saw the policemen kill those people.”

Police Commissioner Gen. Riah Phiyega has been criticized for saying her officers “did nothing wrong.” She said they acted in self-defense, using live bullets only after they were fired upon and had failed to stop a charge of miners with water cannons, stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

The police killings were the worst public display of state-sponsored violence since apartheid was overthrown and have traumatized a nation that hoped it had seen the last of such scenes.

In the fallout from the killings, the bitter mine strike has strengthened. The mine reported an average of 6.6 percent of workers showed up across various shifts Thursday, down from 13 percent on Monday and 50 percent on Saturday.

The mine said many workers were being intimidated and feared for their safety if they returned to work. it has suffered a serious hit to its share price and has said it probably cannot meet debt payments, due next month, because of the strike that started Aug. 10.

The Texas billionaire who once owned the Minnesota Vikings, San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets is raising money for a University of Texas at San Antonio graduate student attacked by chimps in South Africa.

Red McCombs says his foundation is writing a $5,000 check to the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, which is collecting donations for Andrew F. Oberle. McCombs tells The Associated Press his goal is to raise $100,000 for the 26-year-old student.

Oberle was attacked last week by two chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden in eastern South Africa.

McCombs said he read about Oberle’s plight. He says the money will go toward Oberle’s medical expenses and anything else he needs.

Donors have already raised about $20,000 separately.

This undated photo provided by the Facebook group HelpAndrewOberle shows graduate student Andrew Oberle sitting with a chimp. Doctors are reporting improvement in the condition of Oberle, who was attacked by chimps he was studying in South Africa.

Two adult chimpanzees that viciously attacked a U.S. student at a primate sanctuary in South Africa were defending their territory and will be allowed to live, the lead government investigator said Tuesday.

Conservationist Dries Pienaar blamed human error for Thursday’s attack.

But one of the sanctuary managers, Eugene Cussons, said he did not blame Andrew F. Oberle for crossing between two safety fences to retrieve a rock that the chimps were in the habit of throwing at tourists.

Oberle was in critical condition and in a medically induced coma in the hospital by Monday night. On Tuesday, doctors refused to describe his condition saying the family, which has arrived from the United States, is traumatized and asking for privacy.

Pienaar told The Associated Press that the chimps tore off one of Oberle’s testicles and some fingers from one hand as well as mauling his head. This was “to my astonishment, I couldn’t believe it because I know those chimps personally,” he said.

He said he found no negligence on the part of the Jane Goodall Institute’s Chimpanzee Eden SA in eastern South Africa.

“The only thing that happened is Andrew stepped over the small barrier fence and went right up to the electric fence,” he said. “We all know that they are tame chimps, but he shouldn’t have done that, he’s a researcher, he’s supposed to read the body language.”

Oberle was leading a group of tourists at the time. The visitors were 10 meters (33 feet) from the second fence, as required by safety rules. After Oberle stepped over the first fence, the chimps dragged him under the electric fence, then out into a public area where they continued to attack him, Cussons said.

Cussons said he was happy that Pienaar found the chimps were involved in territorial defense and would not therefore be killed or punished.

He said he was forced to shoot one of the chimps, but not mortally, after he and a ranger failed to scare the animals into releasing Oberle. When they drove a car at them, chimp Nikki jumped onto the front and smashed the windshield, causing Cussons to fire.

Nikki, aged about 16, was wounded in the abdomen and is being treated at the Johannesburg Zoo.

The other attacker, Amadeus, in its 20s, is on lockdown with its family at the sanctuary.

Pienaar, who has worked as a conservationist for 33 years, said he condoned the shooting, a last option under protocols that recommend first shock treatment or pepper sprays.

“Other than that I’m happy with things,” Pienaar said. “I’m not having the chimps put down. I don’t think there’s reason for that.”

Oberle is a post-graduate student of anthropology and primate behavior at the University of Texas at San Antonio. It was his second trip to study at the South African institute, which takes in orphaned and abused chimpanzees.

Freshman Bertine Strauss has solidified the Longhorn lineup this season giving the team a solid option in th five slot with her 76 scoring average.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

After a year of change, struggles, successes and adjustments to a new country, freshman Bertine Strauss is peaking at the right time and will be a huge part of any success Texas has this postseason.

In the fall, Texas was off to a tremendous start, winning the first tournament of the year in Texas A&M’s backyard, where Strauss joined three teammates to finish in the top 11 individually. Texas earned the program’s first No. 1 national ranking, and it appeared to be the beginning of a historic season. Strauss joining an experienced squad of upperclassmen gave the team the right lineup to compete all year.

By the third tournament, however, Strauss knew something was wrong. She withdrew from the tournament after the first round due to illness, but somehow miraculously came back for Sunday’s final round to help the team score. Despite her courageous effort, the team finished a disappointing 10th, and Strauss’ illness wasn’t just an everyday cold or an adjustment to weather. She had pneumonia.

After missing the final tournament of the fall, Strauss went home to South Africa to recover and get back to golf. It was obvious that her presence was missed on and off the field.

“She’s hilarious and a little spark for our team,” said senior Nicole Vandermade. “When she was out, it was sad because we missed having her around to make us laugh.”

Her time away from the course made her hungrier for success in the spring season.

“I ended up missing five weeks, but when I look back at it now, it was probably a good thing because it made me want to come back and play well,” Strauss said. “Missing the last event of the fall, I was definitely frustrated. It made me think a lot about why I play golf and enjoy it so much, and it definitely made me more hungry to come out and play this spring.”

Once the trainers cleared her to play, Strauss was back on the course to practice for the competitive spring ahead.

“Golf is like a riding a bike, and it doesn’t go away,” Strauss said. “When I’ve been playing so long, I can just get back on and ride, so it wasn’t that bad to get back into [golf]. While I was home, I had one round where I shot 5-under-[par]. That was the point when I realized, I’m definitely back.”

Coming back for the spring, expectations were high for the Longhorns, who had climbed into the top 10 nationally and were the defending Big 12 champions. But when the spring slate began, Strauss and the rest of the Longhorns struggled.

At the UCF Challenge, Strauss had her worst tournament of the year, coming in 76th out of 99 golfers.

“In the beginning I put quite a lot of pressure on myself,” Strauss said.

Slowly, Strauss has improved in every tournament this spring, jumping to 49th, to 35th, to 26th, and just last week she led Texas and finished second overall in an exhibition round with national powerhouse Vanderbilt.

“I’ve just had a lot of fun the last few events and I’ve managed to shoot a few more lower rounds,” Strauss said.

“She has really bounced back and is stronger,” said head coach Martha Richards. “She is hitting the ball great and starting to feel comfortable in Texas, knowing she has a family here, too. When you go halfway around the world like she has, it takes awhile to get settled.”

Strauss has definitely settled into her new life, enjoying her golf game, her teammates and her new home as a Longhorn.

“The one thing that stands out to me [about the United States] is I never knew how big college sports are,” Strauss said. “You hear about it from being in a different country, but you don’t realize that there are 100,000 people that come to see a football game. To be in the stadium and to see all of the pride and tradition of what it means to be a Longhorn was an amazing experience. I’m really excited about next season.”

At the PING/ASU Invitational, Strauss fired a 69 in the second round for her best round of her collegiate career, placing herself in 4th among the nations’ best golfers. In the final round, however, Strauss wasn’t able to close the deal, and dropped to 26th.

“Sometimes the first time around, when you’re in the thick of things, you step up and win the tournament, and other times you fall down and skin your knees a little bit,” Richards said. “What I love is the way she has learned from that.”

In a season full of ups, downs and learning experiences for Strauss and the Longhorns, they are saving their best for last.

“It was unfortunate to see her get sick so much last year, but I think it was a learning process where she was able to learn more about college life and college golf, and now she’s come back and used those experiences to her advantage,” Vandermade said.

This weekend in Lawrence, Kan., Strauss will be the only underclassmen competing in the Big 12 Championship, as the No. 31 Longhorns try to defend their title.

“We haven’t played our best golf yet,” Strauss said. “I’m still waiting for that one really low round, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to come in the very near future.”

Printed on Friday, April 27, 2012 as: Pneumonia set her back but freshman is back strong

The 28th edition of African Cup of Nations kicked off this week in its host countries of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The tournament matches the best teams on the African continent, and the winner receives a birth in the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

This week marks the return of international football competition in a high-tech stadium in Africa. Less than two years after the 2010 World Cup crowned the Spain national team as world champions in South Africa, another high level international tournament is under way in the continent.

This time the festive environment and the stadium-filled vuvuzela buzz is a part of the 28th African Nations Cup. 16 African nations qualified for the competition to crown the best international football club in Africa, including the hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Despite defending champion Egypt not qualifying, this edition of the tournament features highly touted football clubs and dozens of internationally known footballers. Many soccer fans might still remember Ghana’s World Cup run and their dramatic exit in a penalty loss against Uruguay in the quarterfinals.

The Ivory Coast football team also had a solid showing in South Africa, and are led by Chelsea super star Didier Drogba. Ivory Coast holds the favorites tag in the eyes of many soccer experts, mainly because of their easy first stage group that features no other club in the top 65 of the FIFA World Rankings. Côte d'Ivoire started the tournament on pace with a 1-0 win against Sudan on a Drogba goal.

Drogba understands the importance of every tournament game, knowing his nation has a history of underachieving in this competition. “We did some things well and some things not so well, but the main thing was that we won the match,” said the 33-year-old Ivorian to ESPN.

More than a dozen African players from the English premier league will be out of action for their club to play for their country for at least a couple of months. Losing key players to the African Nations Cup tends to spark controversy with the English Premier League. Most notably Manchester City will have to survive on top of their league without two key players. The Toure brothers have helped Manchester City become the leader of arguably the toughest league in the world, but will now focus their efforts on the Ivory Coast squad.

“City have a great team, a great spirit and at the moment they are playing good football, but if they got a couple of injuries I think it would be very difficult for them,” said Emmanuel Adebayor, African and Premier League colleague.

The African Nations Cup usually occurs every two seasons but will break the pattern next year to better align itself with the Word Cup schedule. The African Nations title holder qualifies for the FIFA Confederations Cup, which is hosted the summer before the World Cup.

This is far from the world stage tournament hosted in South Africa in 2010 but it features the same multi-cultural atmosphere that many sports fans remember from the World Cup. So until an champion is crowned on the 12th of next month soccer fans can enjoy the festivities, and yes of course the humming of vuvuzelas.

Printed on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 as: African Cup of Nations kicks off as best teams in Africa compete

The right hand skeleton of the adult female Australopithecus sediba against a modern human hand, from the journal Science. A detailed analysis of 2 million-year-old bones found in South Africa offers the most powerful case so far in identifying the transitional figure that came before modern humans.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Two million-year-old bones belonging to a creature with both apelike and human traits provide the clearest evidence of evolution’s first major step toward modern humans — findings some are calling a potential game-changer.

An analysis of the bones found in South Africa suggests Australopithecus sediba is the most likely candidate to be the ancestor of humans, said lead researcher Lee R. Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

The fossils, belonging to a male child and an adult female, show a novel combination of features, almost as though nature were experimenting. Some resemble pre-human creatures while others suggest the genus Homo, which includes Homo sapiens, modern people.

“It’s as if evolution is caught in one vital moment, a stop-action snapshot of evolution in action,” said Richard Potts, director of the human origins program at the Smithsonian Institution. He was not among the team, led by South African scientists, whose research was published online Thursday in the journal Science.

Scientists have long considered the Australopithecus family, which includes the famous fossil Lucy, to be a primitive candidate for a human ancestor. The new research establishes a creature that combines features of both groups.

The newly studied bones were found in 2008 in the fossil-rich cave region of Malapa near Johannesberg. Berger’s then 9-year-old son, Matthew, found a bone that was determined to belong to the child. Two weeks later Berger uncovered the fossils of the female.

The journal published five papers detailing the findings, including separate reports on the foot, hand, pelvis and brain of A. sediba.

Berger said the brain, hand and foot have characteristics of both modern and early pre-human forms that show a transition under way. It represents a bona fide model that could lead to the human genus Homo, Berger said.

Kristian J. Carlson, also at Witwatersrand, said the brain of A. sediba is small, like that of a chimpanzee, but with a configuration more human, particularly with an expansion behind and above the eyes.
This seems to be evidence that the brain was reorganizing along more modern lines before it began its expansion to the current larger size, Carlson said in a teleconference.

“It will take a lot of scrutiny of the papers and of the fossils by more and more researchers over the coming months and years, but these analyses could well be ‘game-changers’ in understanding human evolution,” according to the Smithsonian’s Potts.

This is a good candidate to represent the evolution of humans, he said, but the earliest definitive example of Homo is 150,000 to 200,000 years younger.

The name Australopithecus means “southern ape,” and “sediba” means natural spring, fountain or wellspring in the local Sotho language.

After the bones were discovered, the children of South Africa were invited to name the child, which they called “Karabo,” meaning “answer” in the local Tswana language. The older skeleton has not yet been given a nickname, Berger said.

The juvenile would have been aged 10 to 13 in terms of human development; the female was in her 20s and there are indications that she may have given birth once. The researchers are not sure if the two were related.

Printed on September 9, 2011 as: Human evolutionary link uncovered