New fossil finds challenge story of human evolution
Aug 9, 2007, 13:14 GMT
The H. erectus skull (L) lies next to a partial jaw bone of H .habilis which were discovered in 2000 near lake Turkana during and unveiled to the worlds media on 09 August 2007 at the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi New research based on the latest find shows the human family tree is more like a wayward bush with stubby branches, calling into question the evolution of our ancestors. EPA/STEPHEN MORRISON
Nairobi - A discovery in Kenya of fossils more than a million years old 'changes the story' of human evolution, showing that two human species coexisted rather than succeeded one another, palaeontologists said Thursday.
The discovery of a 1.44-million-year-old Homo Habilis jaw and a 1.55-million-year-old Homo Erectus skull challenges the conventional view that the former gave rise to the latter, by suggesting that the two species lived at the same time in East Africa, for almost half a million years.
'Homo Habilis never gave rise to Homo Erectus. For a long time we believed that but now these two discoveries have completely changed that story,' said Frederick Manthi, the palaeontologist who found the fossils east of Lake Turkana, in northern Kenya, in August 2000.
Manthi explained the new twist in the story of human beings as akin to chimpanzees and gorillas living at the same time period but in different habitats, which meant they were not in direct competition for survival.
'The fact that they stayed separate as individual species for a long time suggests they had their own ecological niche, avoiding direct competition,' said Idle Farah, director of the National Museums of Kenya, which made the discovery along with the Koobi Fora Research Project led by renowned palaeontologists Meave and Louise Leakey.
Conventional views suggest that Homo Erectus, which existed from about 1.7 million to 200,000 years ago, evolved from Homo Habilis, which lived from about 2 to 1.6 million years ago.
The theory was published in the August 9 issue of the science journal Nature.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur