New Find of Pre-Human Ancestor

A pre-human face from 3.8 million years ago has been discovered. Scientists found the fossils in a rocky bed in Ethiopia, and were able to date the find from minerals in the nearly layers of volcanic rocks. While these developments always are newsworthy, this one is unique in that the facial features were determined. Fossilized head bones reveal for the first time a blunt snout, broad cheeks, and a narrow forehead of a distant human called Australopithecus anamensis. It is thought that this species might have vied for survival in the primeval scrub of East Africa at the same time as “Lucy,” the iconic human ancestor. The fossils show a very primitive face, yet this find fills out a picture of the earliest human family tree that until now has been known only from some broken jaw bones and part of an elbow and skin.


This creature had a brain about the size of a chimpanzee’s with relative modern cheeks, unusually large canine teeth, and a prominent crest of bone on its forehead to anchor powerful chewing muscles. Scientists believe that millions of years of adaptation to new foods, changing climates, and the growing advantage of expressive features for communicating needs produced the evolutionary changes of a sharp chin, aquiline nose, flat cheeks, and a smooth forehead of contemporary humans.


The anamensis species vanished as slightly more advanced descendants like “Lucy” from the closely related Australopithecus afarensis emerged. However the two species might have coexisted for up to 100,000 years along with other small-brained prehuman species. Other scientists, however, feel that these variations are all part of the same basic species, and it is not needed “to redraw the human family tree.”


This information was published in the Journal Nature, and a summary was included in the August 29 issue of the Wall Street Journal.


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