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2-Million-Year-Old Skull Of Human ‘Cousin’ Discovered In South African Cave

A two million-year-old skull from a large-toothed distant human cousin has been unearthed at an Australian-led archaeological dig deep in a South African cave system. The discovery may lead to a new comprehension of human microevolution, thanks to the almost complete men’s skull, found in the Drimolen cave system near Johannesburg.

Source: Nature Ecology and Evolution

According to the researchers, the skull belongs to the Paranthropus robustus, who roamed the planet at nearly the same time as our direct predecessor Homo erectus, as paleoanthropologist Angeline Leece referred to hominins, a small-brained member of the human family tree.

“But these two vastly different species – Homo erectus with their relatively large brains and small teeth, and Paranthropus robustus with their relatively large teeth and small brains – represent divergent evolutionary experiments. While we were the lineage that won out in the end, two million years ago the fossil record suggests that Paranthropus robustus was much more common than Homo erectus on the landscape,” says Leece.

Source: Nature Ecology and Evolution

Lately, Paranthropus robustus were claimed to have survived in social structures identical to gorillas, with large dominant males living in a group of smaller Paranthropus robustus females.

This rare male fossil is more adjacent in size to female specimens discovered earlier at the location, giving the initial high-resolution proof for microevolution within early hominin species. The findings can result in a revised system for categorizing and comprehending the paleobiology of human ancestors – an important development for the field, claimed the experts.

Source: Nature Ecology and Evolution

The skull, meticulously rebuilt from hundreds of bone pieces, depicts the beginning of a very successful Paranthropus robustus lineage occupying the South Africa for a million years, according to archaeologist Andy Herries, who also stated, “Like all other creatures on earth, to remain successful our ancestors adapted and evolved in accordance with the landscape and environment around them.”

Herries continued, “We believe these changes took place during a time when South Africa was drying out, leading to the extinction of a number of contemporaneous mammal species. It is likely that climate change produced environmental stressors that drove evolution within Paranthropus robustus.”

H/T: The Guardian

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