A team of archaeologists has uncovered a fossil that belongs to one of the earliest human ancestors.
According to the team, the recent discovery adds to the evidence that one of the most famous of the human ancestors, Lucy was not the only species living in what we now know as Ethiopia millions of years ago.
The newly-found fossil consists of fragments of teeth and lower jaw and based on accurate analysis, the remains of the human ancestor dates back approximately 3.5 million years back.
The fragments were unearthed in northern Ethiopia, in a region known as Afar.
The researchers believe this discovery proves that another species of human ancestor lived close to where Lucy’s species lived.
The details of the findings were described in the journal Nature on Wednesday and the authors of the study named the newly found species of human ancestor Australopithecus deyiremeda.
In the Afar language “deyiremeda” is translated as “close relative”, which refers to the apparent close relationship between the different species of human ancestors.
Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a researcher at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the leader of the team who made the discovery, explained that no one really knows exactly how the Australopithecus deyiremeda is related to the human branch of the family tree.
A previous discovery, made in 2009, consisting of fossils of foot bones indicate that there could be a second species living in that same area.
But the experts have not assigned to bones to any known species of human ancestor, and it’s not clear yet whether the fossil belongs to the recently discovered Australopithecus deyiremeda.
If proved that the fossils don’t belong to that species that lived at approximately the same time and region as Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis, it would mean that the fossils belonged to a completely different species.
Bernard Wood, a scientist at George Washington University, believes the recent discovery is quite a significant evidence that a second species lived close to Lucy’s at the same time.
Wood is puzzled as how the two species have managed to share the same landscape.
According to Wood, the newly-found fossil raises plenty of evolutionary questions and hopefully the scientific world will find the answers for it in the next ten years.
The researchers said that there are specific anatomical differences assessing that this species of human ancestor is different than Lucy’s.
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