Rough start in life

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This discovery challenges the long-held notion of linear evolution, in which one species disappears and is replaced by a new one. Anamensis , which now spans from 4.

Geological evidence suggests the landscape would have featured extremely steep hills, volcanoes, lava flows and rifts that could easily have isolated populations, allowing them to diverge. Afarensis , which continued to appear on the fossil record until at least 3 million years ago, has often been put forward as a likely candidate ultimately giving rise to the Homo lineage to which modern humans belong.

But the discovery that multiple different lineages coexisted makes this hypothesis much less certain, according to the researchers. Older fossils, like Ardi, which dates to 4. The first piece of the new fossil, the upper jaw, was found by a local worker in February , in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Fossil pollen grains and chemical remains of fossil plant and algae taken from the sediment suggest that the individual lived by a river or along the shores of a lake surrounded by trees and shrubland.

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The findings are published in the journal Nature. The latest specimen, a remarkably complete adult male skull casually named MRD, changes this. Quick guide Evolutionary timeline Show Hide 55m years ago. When the researchers virtually reassembled the face of Apidima 2, they realized they were looking at a Neanderthal.

First human fossil in Arabia found

In Neanderthals and other extinct human relatives, the back of the skull bulges outward. Harvati said. But in our own species, there is no bulge. Compared with our extinct cousins, the back of the modern human skull is distinctively round.

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To Dr. It also had other features found in Homo sapiens but not in other species. Laura Buck, a paleoanthropologist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the study, said Dr.

Ancient fossil reveals face of early human ancestor

Harvati and her colleagues made a compelling case. Buck said. While Dr. Apidima 2, the Neanderthal, turned out to be , years old, just a bit older than the previous estimate. But Apidima 1, the Homo sapiens skull, was at least , years old — some 40, years older than Apidima 2.

Who Discovered the First Dinosaur Fossils?

That date makes the skull fragment the oldest modern human fossil not just in Europe, but anywhere outside Africa. The challenge scientists now face is to figure out how Apidima 1 fits into our ancient history. Over the past 20 years, researchers have amassed a great deal of evidence indicating that human populations that live outside Africa today all descended from small groups of migrants who departed the continent some 70, years ago.