EbeneInfo – UA – Archaeological news: Discovery of ancient human fossil reveals tiny evolutionary change

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    An extinct human species evolved rapidly about two million years ago, paving the way for modern humans The species, known as Paranthropus robustus, was thought to be similar to other primates – including characteristics such as males being generally larger But new fossil discovery in South Africa shows P Robustus has changed rapidly following drastic climate change

    Scientists already knew that P Robustus appeared around the same time that Australopithecus, a primitive being of the genus Homo to which modern humans belong, became extinct

    The discovery of a « remarkably well-preserved » fossil of a male P robustus in Drimolen, South Africa, shows that climatic and environmental changes have accelerated the evolution of the species

    The team believe P Robustus evolved rapidly to adapt to its environment, according to research published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution

    Researchers say the species materialized in tens of thousands of years, as opposed to the millions it usually takes a species to evolve

    David Strait, professor of biological anthropology in arts & Sciences at the University of Washington, said: « This is the type of phenomenon that can be difficult to document in the fossil record, particularly with regard to early human evolution

    « The working hypothesis was that climate change created stress in Australopithecus populations ultimately leading to their extinction, but that environmental conditions were more favorable for Homo and Paranthropus, who may have dispersed in the region from elsewhere

    « We now see that the environmental conditions were probably just as stressful for Paranthropus, and that they had to adapt to survive »

    The evolution of a species can be difficult to spot, especially when objects are missing from the fossil record

    However, because the specimen, which has been dubbed DNH 155, is so well preserved, scientists were able to notice the smallest changes

    The newly discovered specimen is much larger than previous records of P Robustus found at Drimolen but smaller than males of the same species found at Swartkrans

    Jesse Martin, a doctoral student at La Trobe University and co-first author of the study, said: “It now appears that the difference between the two sites cannot simply be explained by differences between males and women, but rather as population differences between sites

    « Our recent work has shown that Drimolen predates Swartkrans by about 200,000 years, so we believe that P robustus evolved over time with Drimolen representing an early population and Swartkrans representing a later, more anatomically derived population.

    « The fossil record can be used to help reconstruct the evolutionary relationships between species, and this model can provide all kinds of insights into the processes that have shaped the evolution of particular groups

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    « But in the case of P robustus, we can see discrete samples of the species taken from the same geographic region but at slightly different times showing subtle anatomical differences, which is consistent with the change within ‘a species « 

    Angeline Leece of La Trobe University, the other first author of the study, added: « It is very important to be able to document evolutionary changes within a lineage

    « For example, we now know that tooth size changes over time in the species, which begs the question of why

    « There is reason to believe that environmental changes have put these populations under food stress, and this points to future research that will allow us to test this possibility »

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    Human, Paranthropus robustus, Skull, Drimolen, Hominini, Standing man, Species

    EbeneInfo – UA – Archaeological news: Discovery of an ancient human fossil reveals tiny evolutionary change

    Source: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1358419/archaeology-news-human-species-extinct-south-africa-fossil-evg

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