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10:46, 29 August 2019

'Game changing' skull of 3.8 million year old human ancestor discovered

AKIPRESS.COM - Scientists have recreated the face of an early human ancestor after a "remarkably complete" skull dating back 3.8 million years was found in Ethiopia, Sky News reports.

Researchers dug up the cranium at the Woranso-Mille palaeontology site in the northeastern Afar region of the African country after 15 years of work.

Dr Yohannes Haile-Selassie, of Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Case Western Reserve University, said the discovery was a "game changer in our understanding of human evolution" as it challenges previous assumptions of a linear transition between two early human ancestor species.

The Australopithecus anamensis species is known to have existed between 3.9 million and 4.2 million years ago - but the newly discovered fossil is 3.8 million years old.

This means Australopithecus anamensis must have co-existed for around 100,000 years with the species that came next - Australopithecus afarensis (also known as Lucy).

The international team said: "A. anamensis was already a species that we knew quite a bit about, but this is the first cranium of the species ever discovered. It is good to finally be able to put a face to the name."

Australopithecus anamensis is the oldest known species that is unambiguously part of the human evolutionary tree.

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