Fossils from Greece and Bulgaria of an ape-like creature that lived 7.2 million years ago may fundamentally alter the understanding of human origins, casting doubt on the view that the evolutionary lineage that led to people arose in Africa.
Scientists said on Monday the creature, known as Graecopithecus freybergi and known only from a lower jawbone and an isolated tooth, may be the oldest-known member of the human lineage that began after an evolutionary split from the line that led to chimpanzees, our closest cousins.
The jawbone, which included teeth, was unearthed in 1944 in Athens. The premolar was found in south-central Bulgaria in 2009. The researchers examined them using sophisticated new techniques including CT scans and established their age by dating the sedimentary rock in which they were found.
They found dental root development that possessed telltale human characteristics not seen in chimps and their ancestors, placing Graecopithecus within the human lineage, known as hominins. Until now, the oldest-known hominin was Sahelanthropus, which lived 6-7 million years ago in Chad.
The scientific consensus long has been that hominins originated in Africa. Considering the Graecopithecus fossils hail from the Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean may have given rise to the human lineage, the researchers said.
The findings in no way call into question that our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago and later migrated to other parts of the world, the researchers said.
“Our species evolved in Africa. Our lineage may not have,” said paleoanthropologist Madelaine Böhme of Germany’s University of Tübingen, adding that the findings “may change radically our understanding of early human/hominin origin.”
Homo sapiens is only the latest in a long evolutionary hominin line that began with overwhelmingly ape-like species, followed by a succession of species acquiring more and more human traits over time.
University of Toronto paleoanthropologist David Begun said the possibility that the evolutionary split occurred outside Africa is not incongruent with later hominin species arising there.
“We know that many of the mammals of Africa did in fact originate in Eurasia and dispersed into Africa at around the time Graecopithecus lived,” Begun said. “So why not Graecopithecus as well?”
Graecopithecus is a mysterious species because its fossils are so sparse. It was roughly the size of a female chimp and dwelled in a relatively dry mixed woodland-grassland environment, similar to today’s African savanna, alongside antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, elephants, hyenas and warthogs.
The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)
Kentucky militant’s wife plays victim after militia leader fired for hanging governor in effigy
A right-wing militant was fired for hanging Kentucky's governor in effigy during a lockdown protest -- and his wife is furious.
Terry Bush, president of the Kentucky 3 Percenters militia group, lost his job Tuesday with Neil Huffman Auto Group after he was photographed and recorded hanging Gov. Andy Beshear in effigy before demonstrators gathered outside the governor's mansion and demanded that he come outside, reported the Courier-Journal.
Jerry Nadler shoots down Eric Trump’s attempt to paint him as a hypocrite on mail-in voting
This Wednesday morning, President Trump's son, Eric Trump, took a dig at Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) by tweeting out an old video featuring Nadler saying that "paper ballots are extremely susceptible to fraud," in an attempt to paint Democrats as hypocrites in light of President Trump's disparagement of mail-in voting.
"At least with the old clunky voting machines that we have in New York, deliberate fraud is way down," Nadler says in the video.
Larry Kramer, author, activist, ACT UP founder dead at 84
Larry Kramer, the playwright, AIDS activist, author, public health advocate, and LGBTQ activist who founded GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) and later ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), is dead at 84.
The New York Times reports Kramer's husband, David Webster, said he died of pneumonia.
Kramer was known as an outspoken activist who wielded hyperbole like a sword.
“One of America’s most valuable troublemakers,” Susan Sontag called him.