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We weren’t alone! Scientists confirm there were two other species of early  human beings

  • Skulls from flat faced early humans found in ‘cradle of life’ near Lake Turkana in Kenya
  • Scientists believe the  new species eventually came to an evolutionary dead end

By Mark Prigg

PUBLISHED:17:16 EST, 8  August 2012| UPDATED:07:01 EST, 9 August 2012

Scientists have discovered two new species of  early human which lived alongside our direct ancestor two million years ago,  before coming to an evolutionary ‘dead end’.

The revelation is based on three new fossils  unearthed between 2007 and 2009 from a site near  Lake Turkana in Kenya – known as the ‘cradle of mankind’.

They included a face, a near-complete lower  jaw, and part of a second lower jaw.

Discovery: A skull of the new species of early human, developed from fossils found near Lake Turkana in KenyaDiscovery: A skull of the new species of early human,  developed from fossils found near Lake Turkana in Kenya

Combined with a mysterious fossil  known as  ‘1470’ found nearby four decades ago, they confirm the  existence of a human  species with a large brain case and long, flat  face.

The fossils appear to be distinct both from  Homo erectus and Homo habilis, another primitive species from the same  era.

Researchers used computer software to reconstruct an entire jaw from the fragments they foundResearchers used computer software to reconstruct an  entire jaw from the fragments they found

Before the new discoveries, experts had  tentatively named the 1470 species Homo rudolfensis.

The fossils were unearthed by the  Koobi Fora  Research Project led by Professor Meave Leakey and are  between 1.78 and 1.95  million years old.

Discovery: Dr Meave Leakey (right) and members of her team excavating parts of a skull found in Northern Kenya in 2007Discovery: Dr Meave Leakey (right) and members of her  team excavating parts of a skull found in Northern Kenya in 2007

They were found just over 10 kms from 1470’s  location.

Homo erectus: An artists sketch of homo erectus, the established idea of what primitive man looked likeHomo erectus: An artists sketch of homo erectus, the  established idea of what primitive man looked like

Dr Leakey, whose findings are published in  the journal Nature, said: ‘For the past 40 years we have looked long and hard in  the vast expanse of sediments around Lake Turkana for fossils that confirm the  unique features of 1470’s face and show us what its teeth and lower jaw would  have looked like.

‘At last we have some  answers.’

Dr Leakey said one of the most noticeable  features of 1470 was its strong jaw.

‘The cheek bones are so far forward it means  they would have been able to use quite a strong biting force,’ she  said.

It is also believed we got on well with our  new ancestors.

‘Modern primates are generally very good at  living together,’ Leakey said.

‘You can see troops of monkeys composed of at  least two species, if not more.’
Co-author Professor Fred Spoor, from  University College London, said: ‘Combined, the three new fossils give a much  clearer picture of what 1470 looked like.

‘As a result, it is now clear that two  species of early Homo lived alongside Homo erectus.

‘The new fossils will greatly help in  unravelling how our branch of human evolution first emerged and flourished  almost two million years ago.’

Bernard Wood, professor of anatomy at  George  Washington University in Washington FC, reviewed the study for  the journal and  said the evidence for at least two Homo lineages as  early as two million years  ago is ‘compelling’.

He said: ‘The task of palaeoanthropologists  is to reconstruct the  evolutionary history of the period between our species,  Homo sapiens,  and the ancestral species we share exclusively with chimpanzees  and  bonobos.

‘There must have  been a ladder-like sequence  of species connecting us with that common  ancestor; but it is unclear whether  our section of the ‘tree of life’ is restricted to this ancestor- descendant  sequence, or whether it  includes other, now extinct, lineages.

‘Might there have been multiple lineages  early in the history of our own genus, Homo?’

Meave Leakey excavates the skull of a new species of human near Koobi Fora, northern Kenya.Meave Leakey excavates the skull of a new species of  human near Koobi Fora, northern Kenya.

Scientists have seen many different species  of other animals evolve with different traits.

If the new trait is better suited to the  environment then the new species thrives, if not it becomes extinct.

According to Professor Chris Stringer of the  Natural History Museum in London, fossil evidence is increasingly suggesting  that human evolution followed the same pattern.

The fossils were found at the Lake Turkana area of Kenya, also known as the 'cradle of life' due to the huge number of early human fossils found there.The fossils were found at the Lake Turkana area of  Kenya, also known as the ‘cradle of life’ due to the huge number of early human  fossils found there.

‘Humans seem to have been evolving in  different ways in different regions’ He told the BBC.

‘It was almost as if nature was developing  different human prototypes with different attributes, only one of which, an  ancestor of our species, was ultimately successful in evolutionary terms,’ he  said.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2185666/We-werent-Scientists-confirm-species-early-human-beings.html#ixzz235iOij53