Ethiopian fossils represent new member of human family tree

Jun 2, 2015

By Will Dunham

Jaw and teeth fossils found on the silty clay surface of Ethiopia’s Afar region represent a previously unknown member of humankind’s family tree that lived 3.3 to 3.5 million years ago alongside the famous human ancestor “Lucy,” scientists say.

The fossils shed new light on a key period in the human lineage’s evolution before the emergence of our genus Homo and provide the first evidence that two early human ancestor species lived at the same time and place prior to 3 million years ago, they said in announcing the discovery on Wednesday.

The new species, Australopithecus deyiremeda, combined ape-like and human-like traits as did Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, but was sufficiently different to warrant recognition as a separate species, they said.

Lucy’s skeleton was unearthed in 1974 about 30 miles (50 km) from the new fossils’ location.

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4 comments on “Ethiopian fossils represent new member of human family tree

  • 1
    Lorenzo says:

    Might be an amazing discovery, once confirmed!
    Can’t wait to hear more about it.


    One unanswered question is how Lucy’s species and the new one managed to co-exist.

    What sort of question is that? I find a lot more interesting to ask “how are we managing to survive as a single species since for the near totality of our history we have been sharing the planet with very, very close relatives?”

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  • There is a link to this subject with more detail here: –
    A new species of ancient human has been unearthed in the Afar region of Ethiopia, scientists report.

    Researchers discovered jaw bones and teeth, which date to between 3.3m and 3.5m years old.

    “Historically, because we didn’t have the fossil evidence to show there was hominin diversity during the middle Pliocene, we thought there was only one lineage, one primitive ancestor – in this case Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy – giving rise to the next.

    “That hypothesis of linear evolution has to be revisited. And now with the discovery of more species, like this new one… you have another species roaming around.

    “What this means is we have many species that could give rise to later hominins, including our own genus Homo.”

    Dr Haile-Selassie said that even more fossils need to be unearthed, to better understand the path that human evolution took.

    He added that finding additional ancient remains could also help researchers examine how the different species lived side-by-side – whether they mixed or avoided each other, and how they shared food and other resources in their landscape.

    It means this new hominin was alive at the same time as several other early human species, suggesting our family tree is more complicated than was thought.

    The study is published in the journal Nature.

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