New human ancestor: Early Human Species Found

Published: May 28, 2015

New human ancestor: Early Human Species Found, A previously unknown species of early human, which lived alongside the famous ancestor known as Lucy, has been discovered in Ethiopia.

Anthropologists studied jawbones and teeth found in the Woranso-Mille area and identified them as belonging to a new human which lived around 3.4 million years ago.

They have named the species, which appears to have dental features previously thought to have appeared much later in the Homo species, as Australopithecus deyiremeda.

And researchers said the species is a close relative of another early human found in the Afar region – Australopithecus afarensis – typified by the fossil known as Lucy.

However, the second half of the name for new species is derived from the local Afar language, with deyi, meaning close, and remeda, meaning relative.

55 million years ago – First primitive primates evolve

15 million years ago – Hominidae (great apes) evolve from the ancestors of the gibbon

8 million years ago – First gorillas evolve. Later, chimp and human lineages diverge

5.5 million years ago – Ardipithecus, early ‘proto-human’ shares traits with chimps and gorillas

4 million years ago – Australopithecines appeared. They had brains no larger than a chimpanzee’s

3.9 million years ago – Australopithicus afarenis first appear in Africa

3.5 million years ago – The new species, Australopithecus deyiremeda is thought to have appeared in Afar, Ethiopia

3.5 million years ago – Kenyanthropus platyops is thought to have lived in Kenya

3.2 million years ago – The Australopithicus afarenis known as Lucy lived in Afar, Ethiopia

2.8 million years ago – The first of the Homo family appears

2.7 million years ago – Paranthropus, lived in woods and had massive jaws for chewing

1.8 million years ago – Homo ergaster begins to appear in fossil record

1.6 million years ago – Hand axes become the first major technological innovation

800,000 years ago – Early humans control fire and create hearths. Brain size increases rapidly

400,000 years ago – Neanderthals first begin to appear and spread across Europe and Asia

200,000 years ago – Homo sapiens – modern humans – appear in Africa

40,0000 years ago – Modern humans reach Europe

This refers to the new early human being a close relative of subsequent hominins – the term used to describe all human-like species that emerged after splitting from chimpanzees.

The discovery suggests the evolutionary roots of our own species and other members of the Homo family tree are far more complicated than had been previously thought.

It also increases evidence that East Africa was a hotspot of evolution with several different species of early hominins emerging to live alongside each other.

The jawbone and teeth were found less than 22 miles (35km) from the spot where the remains of Australopithecus afarensis were found.

Australopithicus afarenis is thought to have lived between 3.9 million and 2.9 million years ago.

Experts believe the new species, by comparison, lived between 3.3 million to 3.5 million years ago, although that may change as more fossils are discovered.

The first members of our own branch of the evolutionary tree, Homo, are also thought to have emerged around three million years ago.

The discovery has the potential to radically change our interpretation of the human family tree and suggests that when the first humans began to appear, Africa was a crowded place.

Dr Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History who led the study, said Australopithecus deyiremeda appears to belong to a sister species of early homos and other Australopithecines.

It suggests a number of early human species emerged in Africa but then later died out as ‘evolutionary dead ends’.

Dr Haile-Selassie said: ‘Fossil evidence from the Woranso-Millea area clearly shows that there were at least two, if not three, early human species living at the same time in close geographical proximity.

‘This new species from Ethiopia takes the ongoing debate on early hominin diversity to another level.

‘Some of our colleagues are going to be skeptical about this new species, which is not unusual.

‘However, I think it is time that we look into the earlier phases of our evolution with an open mind and carefully examine the currently available fossil evidence rather than immediately dismissing the fossils that do not fit our long-held hypotheses.’

Until the end of the twentieth century, scientists had believed that there were relatively few early humans living in Africa between three and four million years ago and these gave rise to species that came later.

New human ancestor: Early Human Species Found

New human ancestor: Early Human Species Found

New human ancestor: Early Human Species Found

New human ancestor: Early Human Species Found


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