New fossil skull from Africa reveals tangled roots at base of the human family treeSubmitted by emalvini on Wed, 08/08/2012 - 14:24
New fossil skull from Africa reveals tangled roots at base of the human family tree
By Brian Vastag, Wednesday, August 8, 10:39 AM
A two million-year-old flat-faced skull pulled from the sandstones of east Africa has shored up claims that at least three species of early humans once co-existed in an “evolutionary experiment” that saw an explosive increase in brain size paired with radically different faces, teeth, and jaws.
While the new partial skull and two newly found jawbones look radically different from modern humans, they match an enigmatic, nearly complete skull found 40 years ago that paleoanthropologists have long struggled to fit into the human family tree.
Together, the new finds and the puzzling skull describe a species of early humans clearly distinct from two others known from fossils from the same period, said Meave Leakey, the 70-year-old paleoanthropologist who led the team that discovered the fossils.
The “base of the human lineage was indeed diverse,” Leakey said from her longtime home at the Turkana Basin Institute in northern Kenya. Her colleagues made the finds near there.