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Curator Discovers New Human Ancestor Species 

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Old 05-28-2015, 05:22 AM
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Curator Discovers New Human Ancestor Species

May 27, 2015

A new relative joins, “Lucy,” on the human family tree.

An international team of scientists, led by Curator of Physical Anthropology Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, has discovered a 3.3 to 3.5 million year old new human ancestor species.

Upper and lower jaw fossils recovered from the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region of Ethiopia have been assigned to the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. This hominin lived alongside the famous, “Lucy’s,” species, Australopithecus afarensis. The species will be described in the May 28, 2015 issue of the international scientific journal, Nature.

Lucy’s species lived from 2.9 million years ago to 3.8 million years ago, overlapping in time with the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. The new species is the most conclusive evidence for the contemporaneous presence of more than one closely related early human ancestor species prior to 3 million years ago. The species name, “deyiremeda,” (day-ihreme-dah), means, “close relative,” in the language spoken by the Afar people.

Australopithecus deyiremeda differs from Lucy’s species in terms of the shape and size of its thick enameled teeth and the robust architecture of its lower jaws. The anterior teeth are also relatively small indicating that it probably had a different diet.

“The new species is yet another confirmation that Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, was not the only potential human ancestor species that roamed in what is now the Afar region of Ethiopia during the middle Pliocene,” said lead author and Woranso-Mille project team leader Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie. “Current fossil evidence from the Woranso-Mille study area clearly shows that there were at least two, if not three, early human species living at the same time and in close geographic proximity.

“This new species from Ethiopia takes the ongoing debate on early hominin diversity to another level,” said Haile-Selassie. “Some of our colleagues are going to be skeptical about this new species, which is not unusual. However, I think it is time that we look into the earlier phases of our evolution with an open mind and carefully examine the currently available fossil evidence rather than immediately dismissing the fossils that do not fit our long-held hypotheses,” said Haile-Selassie.

Scientists have long argued that there was only one pre-human species at any given time between 3 and 4 million years ago, subsequently giving rise to another new species through time. This was what the fossil record appeared to indicate until the end of the 20th century. However, the naming of Australopithecus bahrelghazali from Chad and Kenyanthropus platyops from Kenya, both from the same time period as Lucy’s species, challenged this long-held idea.

Although a number of researchers were skeptical about the validity of these species, the announcement by Haile-Selassie of the 3.4 million year old Burtele partial foot in 2012 cleared some of the skepticism on the likelihood of multiple early hominin species in the 3 to 4 million year range.

The Burtele partial fossil foot did not belong to a member of Lucy’s species. However, despite the similarity in geological age and close geographic proximity, the researchers have not assigned the partial foot to the new species due to lack of clear association.

Regardless, the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda incontrovertibly confirms that multiple species did indeed co-exist during this time period.

This discovery has important implications for our understanding of early hominin ecology. It also raises significant questions, such as how multiple early hominins living at the same time and geographic area might have used the shared landscape and available resources.


The Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, (ARCCH), of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Ethiopian government annually issues fieldwork research permit to the Woranso-Mille project. The National Museum of Ethiopia and the Directorate of Collections, Curation, and Laboratory Services of ARCCH provided laboratory research facility and fossil storage space.

The Afar Regional State, Mille District administration, and the local Afar people of Waki and Waytaleyta areas facilitated the fieldwork. The Woranso-Mille project field and laboratory work were financially supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.

Photo provided by AFP. A representative model of the skeleton, "Lucy," at the opening of the new permanent exhibition at the National Museum of Ethiopia on December 3, 2014

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Old 05-30-2015, 06:40 AM
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Re: Ancient Jawbones Put New Species on the Human Family Tree, Researchers Say

I can't wait to watch the creationists fumble to fit this in somewhere.

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Old 05-30-2015, 06:53 AM
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Re: Ancient Jawbones Put New Species on the Human Family Tree, Researchers Say

I can't wait till the whole lucy theory is tossed to the side, and the newer hypothesis circulating comes to light. This really does shed a whole new light on things.

leaving people pounding their refresh button circa 2010.
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Old 05-31-2015, 03:23 AM
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Re: Ancient Jawbones Put New Species on the Human Family Tree, Researchers Say

Originally Posted by jackdiggums View Post
I can't wait to watch the creationists fumble to fit this in somewhere.
C'mon man, deep down inside you know those bones are only 4 thousand years old

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Old 06-03-2015, 11:18 AM
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Re: Curator Discovers New Human Ancestor Species

Amazing what gets discovered

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