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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