VIDEO: Only ONE Species of Early Human Ancestor, NOT Several

Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray

A haul of fossils found in Georgia suggests that half a dozen species of early human ancestor were actually all Homo erectus

The odd dimensions of one of five fossils found at Dmanisi, Georgia prompted scientists to look at normal skull variation, both in modern humans and chimps, to see how they compared. They found that while the Dmanisi skulls looked different to one another, the variations were no greater than those seen among modern people and among chimps.

The scientists went on to compare the Dmanisi remains with those of supposedly different species of human ancestor that lived in Africa at the time. They concluded that the variation among them was no greater than that seen at Dmanisi. Rather than being separate species, the human ancestors found in Africa from the same period may simply be normal variants of H erectus.

Some palaeontologists see minor differences in fossils and give them labels, and that has resulted in the family tree accumulating a lot of branches.

The analysis also casts doubt on claims that a creature called Australopithecus sediba that lived in what is now South Africa around 1.9m years ago was a direct ancestor of modern humans. The species was discovered by Lee Berger at the University of Witwatersrand.

Fossil Skulls Challenges Understanding of Human Evolution

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Ancient Incest Uncovered in Neanderthal Genome

In 2010, the study’s toe bone first turned up at Denisova Cave, where excellent fossil preservation conditions had allowed for the genetic mapping of the then-surprising Denisovan finger bone found in 2008. Gene tests showed the toe belonged to a Neanderthal, and Prüfer and colleagues began calculating its full genetic map.

The results show that it belonged to a woman whose closely matched chromosomes suggest that her parents were closely related, perhaps half-siblings or an uncle and niece (or aunt and nephew).

Over time, such inbreeding has been shown to be bad for the genetic fitness of most species, including people, throughout the animal world.

(Only 96 genes responsible for making proteins in cells are different between modern humans and Neanderthals. Intriguingly, some of the gene differences involve ones involved in both immune responses and the development of brain cells in people.)

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