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New human species is unearthed in Ethiopia

June 01, 2015 Researchers in the Afar region of Ethiopia believe that they have discovered and unearthed a new human species, dating as far back as 3.5 million years ago. The discovery includes jaw bones and teeth, and this, according to scientists, means that the new hominin was alive at the same time as several other early human species. This also means that the human family tree is more complicated than was thought.

These discovered bones are suspected to belong to four individuals, who would have had features of both ape and humans.

The species have been named Australopithecus deyiremeda, which means “close relative” in the language of the Afar people.

According to BBC News, a Lead researcher, Dr Yohannes Haile-Selassie, who is also the curator of physical anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the US, said: “We had to look at the detailed anatomy and morphology of the teeth and the upper and lower jaws, and we found major differences.

“This new species has very robust jaws. In addition, we see this new species had smaller teeth. The canine is really small – smaller than all known hominins we have documented in the past.”

The age of the remains means that this was potentially one of four different species of early humans that were all alive at the same time, like the most famous, Australopithecus afarensis AKA Lucy thought to have lived between 2.9 to 3.8 million years ago. Lucy was first thought to be our direct ancestor, before other species like Kenyanthropus platyops was found in Kenya in 2001, and another in Chad. This new finding suggests that there were several species co-existing.

While some researchers disagree on if the various partial remains really constitute different species, particularly for the specie found in Chad, Dr Haile-Selassie says the early stage of human evolution was probably surprisingly complex and that the hypothesis of linear evolution has to be revisited especially with the discovery of more species, like this new one.

More fossils need to be unearthed, according to the doctor, to better understand the path that human evolution took.

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