Scientists find skull of human ancestor

So Dr. Lahr worked their way backward from this modern diversity to what they believe was the skull of a common ancestor. They took CT scans of skulls of people from a wide range of populations — from the inhabitants of African rainforests to Pacific islands to the coasts of Greenland. They also scanned ,year-old skulls found in Israel that are clearly similar to those of living humans.

The researchers also picked out a selection of extinct human relatives, such as Neanderthals, to study in the same way. Then the scientists placed all of these living and extinct individuals on an evolutionary tree.


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In doing so, they were able to trace the evolution of skulls along each of the branches, arriving at a picture of the skull of the common ancestor of living humans. Mounier said of the skull. The rendering of this ancestral skull shows the same vaulted braincase that we have today.

This Skull Is Not Real And Never Existed. But It Could Be Your Ancestor All The Same

But it also has heavier brow ridges and a protruding lower face. Lahr compared their ancestral skull with real African fossil skulls from the same period. The researchers found a number of differences — so many, in fact, that they think the fossils belong not to a single population, but to three.

The Moroccan fossil belongs to one population. Another fossil, found in Tanzania, represents the second. The third population includes two fossils from two sites that are thousands of miles apart: South Africa and Kenya. This third population, the researchers concluded, most closely resembles the ancestor of modern humans. The evolutionary lineage that gave rise to modern humans produced a number of populations across Africa around , years ago, Dr.

The hominin has a "mix of primitive and derived facial and cranial" or "ape-like" features, Haile-Selassie said. The cranium shared some features with its descendant species as well as with species that are older and and more primitive, such as Ardipithecus and Sahelanthropus, according to the release.

Early human fossils from between 4. Researchers dated minerals in the layers of volcanic rocks nearby to determine the age of the fossil, combining field observations with analysis of microscopic biological remains to reconstruct the landscape, vegetation and hydrology where the human ancestor died, according to the release.

Volcanic layers that blanketed the land surface and lake floor allowed the researchers to map out the landscape and how it changed over time, said Beverly Saylor, professor of stratigraphy and sedimentology at Case Western Reserve University, in a statement. The large lake region where the specimen lived was likely dry. Since beginning their field research at the Woranso-Mille site in , researchers have collected more than 12, fossil specimens representing about 85 species of mammals, according to the release.

The researchers published their findings this week in two papers in the scientific journal Nature. All rights reserved. WATCH 3. MORE: Fossilized fish discovery may shed light on the day a major asteroid hit earth. MORE: 'Ardi:' 4.

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To find out, a team of geologists led by Beverly Saylor examined the Woranso-Mille terrain in detail. In particular, they were on the lookout for tuffs, sediment layers created by ancient volcanic ashfalls. Some minerals in tuff contain traces of radioactive potassium, which decay like clockwork from the time the minerals were created until the present. Like other australopiths, the face of A.

Exceptionally preserved

The dimensions of its teeth and jaws also make sense: Later australopiths had large, wide faces to accommodate the bones and muscles needed to power through tough diets. While A. But if Haile-Selassie and Melillo are right, the skull could raise more questions about how A. One key feature in early hominin skulls is how much the skull narrows behind the eye sockets. Older, more primitive hominins tend to have more constricted skulls than younger ones. The new skull of A.

Skull discovery ‘a game changer’ in understanding of human evolution

When the Belohdeli frontal was first discovered, some researchers thought it belonged to A. The situation got murkier once A.

Because the Belohdeli frontal is older than the new skull, the find suggests that A. Instead, the researchers argue that by 3. Some scientists say that confirming this evolutionary scenario will require more fossils. The research team says they have more studies in mind, including a more detailed look at how A. But even now, scientists poring over the fossil have to contend with a new delight: a fossil that can stare back. Read Caption. By Michael Greshko. Human origins. Today only one branch of the family tree remains: us. Homo sapiens.