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Old Thursday, August 09, 2007
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Default Fossil discoveries challenge mankindís origin patterns

Fossil discoveries challenge mankindís origin patterns



PARIS: The discovery of two fossils has challenged the belief that our ancestors Homo erectus evolved from Homo habilis, according to an article in the British magazine Nature due out on Thursday.

The finds, on the eastern bank of Lake Turkana in Kenya, suggested that the two species may in fact have co-existed for some 50,000 years in East Africa.

The team that found the remains was led by mother-daughter team Louise and Meave Leakey of the famed Kenyan anthropological family who have uncovered a host of critical human and hominid remains in east Africa.

One of the fossils was an upper jaw bone of Homo habilis that dated back to 1.44 million years ago. It was nevertheless more recent than any of the previously found fossils of its kind.

The second was a remarkably well preserved skull of Homo erectus, which paradoxically dates back even further, to some 1.55 million years ago.

ďWhat is truly striking about this fossil is its size,Ē said Fred Spoor of Londonís University College, and one of the paperís lead authors. ďItís the smallest Homo erectus found anywhere in the world.Ē The recent discovery of the two fossils has created a stir among academics tracing humankindís roots, as it challenges the presumed evolutionary timeline of the species: Homo habilis to Homo erectus to Homo sapiens.

ďTheir co-existence makes it unlikely that Homo erectus evolved from Homo habilis,Ē said Meave Leakey, one of the lead authors of the paper. ďThe fact that they stayed separate as individual species for a long time suggests that they had their own ecological niche, thus avoiding direct competition.Ē

Homo habilis is a species of the genus Homo, which is thought to have lived from approximately 2.5 million to 1.8 million years ago.

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