Scientists discover new human species, say several coexisted in Africa

Scientists discover new human species, say several coexisted in Africa

Nairobi : Kenya | Aug 09, 2012 at 1:58 PM PDT
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Human evolution is a tricky one. While evolution may be the generally accepted theory, it still has a long way to go before it can fully explain just how we have come to be the way we are with numerous missing links in between. Of course, scientists are trying to fill in the gaps, but with millions of years of evolution to chart and document, it is quite a tough task.

But helping further this comes a new breakthrough, as researchers have discovered a new species of human. Researchers from the Turkana Basin Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, have found in the northern part of the country fossil remains of a new species of human, suggesting that there was more than one type of human species that lived in primeval Africa.

Publishing their work in the journal, Nature, the researchers discovered specimens of a face and two jawbones that belonged to this new species of human and it is believed that they are between 1.78 and 1.95 million years old. It is believed that the three fossil specimens found belong to the specie, Homo rudolfensis, first discovered back in the early 1970s. At the time, a skull was found of Homo rudolfensis, but not subsequent finds followed, preventing scientists from making an outright declaration of a new species of human. However, the recent finds now confirms the fact that Homo rudolfensis was indeed a separate and distinct specie of human which existed around two million years ago and coexisted with other species of humans.

The confirmation of Homo rudolfensis, now points to the possibility of the existence of numerous human species that coexisted around the same time in Africa. The earliest known human ancestor was Homo erectus, which existed around 1.8 million years ago, making Homo rudolfensis coeval to Homo erectus. In addition to these two species, it is believed that yet another specie, Homo habilis, existed around the same time as well, making it three distinct human species.

Speaking about the discovery, lead researcher Dr. Meave Leakey told the BBC, "Our past was a diverse past. Our species was evolving in the same way that other species of animals evolved. There was nothing unique about us until we began to make sophisticated stone tools,” with Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London adding, "Humans seem to have been evolving in different ways in different regions. It was almost as if nature was developing different human prototypes with different attributes, only one of which, an ancestor of our species, was ultimately successful in evolutionary terms."

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Berger said the two "represent a completely new and unexpected species of human ancestor"
Berger said the two "represent a completely new and unexpected species of human ancestor"
arkar is based in Seattle, Washington, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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