WE WERE NOT ALONE: Fossils Prove That A Third Species Coexisted With Homo Erectus & Habilis


TG DAILY: A third human species lived alongside Homo erectus and Homo habilis in East Africa as long as two million years ago. New fossils discovered east of Lake Turkana include a face, a near-complete lower jaw and part of a second lower jaw, and appear to confirm the tentative discovery of a new species some 40 years ago. In 1972, scientists discovered the fossil known as KNM-ER 1470 – 1470 for short – leading to a debate about just how many different species of early Homo lived during the Pleistocene epoch. Some said the skull’s large brain size and long flat face was down to sexual differences and natural variation within a single species, whereas others believed it was a separate species. An answer’s been a long time coming, as 1470’s remains don’t include its teeth or lower jaw, and no other fossil skull has shown 1470’s flat and long face. “For the past 40 years we have looked long and hard in the vast expanse of sediments around Lake Turkana for fossils that confirm the unique features of 1470’s face and show us what its teeth and lower jaw would have looked like,” says Meave Leakey, co-leader of the Koobi Fora Research Project (KFRP). “At last we have some answers.” But the three new fossils, uncovered between 2007 and 2009, give a much clearer picture of what 1470 looked like. All found within about seven miles of 1470’s location. MORE

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: New fossils recast a flat-faced oddity as a star species in the first chapter of the human story—perhaps even as our oldest known truly human ancestor. At the least, the fossils confirm that at least three different human species inhabited the same Kenyan neighborhood at the dawn of humanity, according to a new study led by paleontologists Meave and Louise Leakey. Consisting of a face, a complete lower jaw, and part of a second jaw, the new fossils were found east of Kenya‘s Lake Turkana between 2007 and 2009. The products of a 40-year search, they provide the needed evidence to confirm that a disputed skull found in 1972 does in fact represent a new species, the team says. Now, finally, “we know that flat face is real—it isn’t just an aberrant specimen,” said Meave, a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence. Not an aberrant specimen, the study makes clear, but a different species from the early Homo varieties previously known to have inhabited Turkana: Homo habilis (“handy man”), the presumed tool user conventionally seen as the earliest known Homo species, and Homo erectus, the “upright man” believed to be a direct ancestor of our own species (time line of human evolution). “With these new fossils,” Meave said, “we can definitely say there are two groups of non-erectus” living side-by-side at Lake Turkana. MORE

DAILY MAIL: Bernard Wood, professor of anatomy at George Washington University in Washington FC, reviewed the study for the journal and said the evidence for at least two Homo lineages as early as two million years ago is ‘compelling’. He said: ‘The task of palaeoanthropologists is to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the period between our species, Homo sapiens, and the ancestral species we share exclusively with chimpanzees and bonobos. ‘There must have been a ladder-like sequence of species connecting us with that common ancestor; but it is unclear whether our section of the ‘tree of life’ is restricted to this ancestor- descendant sequence, or whether it includes other, now extinct, lineages. MORE