In a recently published Nature article, researchers detailed the discovery of another possible human ancestor: Australopithecus deyiremeda. Australopithecus afarensis, better known to the public as Lucy, had previously been the only known ancestor of modern day humans. However, jawbones from A. deyiremeda were discovered in northern Ethiopia in 2011 (even so, the information had not been released until now). Both the location and approximate age (3.4 million years) of the finding led scientists to believe that the jaws might have belonged to one of Lucy’s kind. However, scientists noticed smaller teeth and a bolder jaw structure, thereby suggesting the presence of a new species. Scientists hope that an unclaimed set of foot fossils will soon be linked to this jawbone in order to solidify the declaration of a new species.
This discovery, although exciting, has caused controversy in the scientific world. Lucy had always been the clear choice as the premiere human ancestor, but the recent unearthing of both A. deyiremeda and Kenyanthropus platyops – another possible human ancestor thought to have lived in Kenya – contests the assumption that Lucy was our only direct ancestor. Cleveland Museum of Natural History paleontologist Yohannes Haille-Selassie commented, “The question that is going to come up is which taxa gave rise to our genus, Homo… That’s going to be the 64-million-dollar question.”
A. afarensis fossils have been found only 35 kilometers away from the A. deyiremeda jawbone. In addition, the A. afarensis fossils have been dated to 3.7 million to 3.0 million years ago, whereas A. deyiremeda has been dated to 3.5 million to 3.3 million years ago.
Callaway, E. (2015, May 27). New species of early human discovered near fossil of ‘Lucy’. Retrieved May 31, 2015, from http://www.nature.com/news/new-species-of-early-human-discovered-near-fossil-of-lucy-1.17644