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Lifelike reconstruction of rare, extinct human relative to be featured in new U-M museum

The University of Michigan now owns what is considered to be the only lifelike reconstruction of an extinct human relative that roamed southern Africa 2 million years ago.

The university’s Museum of Natural History commissioned a full-body, fleshed reconstruction of the Australopithecus sediba from the Daynès Studio in Paris.

The Daynès Studio has also produced several models for the Field Museum in Chicago, most notably the popular Australopithecus afarensis specimen commonly known as “Lucy."

The adult female stands fully upright and is just 45 inches tall. The hairy body is recognizably human, but the head is chimp-like. The reconstruction is based on fossil bones recovered from South Africa’s Malapa Cave in 2008.

"What the bones tell us is that they would have been fully erect, not crouched at the hip and knee like chimps and gorillas, and that's something we really wanted to get right in this model," said U of M paleoanthropologist Laura MacLatchy in a statement.

According to a 2017 Science article, due to Australopithecus sediba’s age (1.98 million years ago), it is too young to be a direct ancestor of the Homo genus but is likely to be ancestral to Homo erectus, an early human ancestor.

The new Museum of Natural History will be inside the Biological Sciences Building, which is currently under construction next to the former Ruthven Museum.

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