New species to resolve muddle over human ancestors
October 29, 2021 - Researchers have announced a new species of human ancestor, named Homo bodoensis. The hominid lived in Africa around half a million years ago and was the direct ancestor of modern humans.
Researchers are looking at Middle Pleistocene hominins, a group that may help explain how Homo erectus (“upright human”) became Homo sapiens. Anthropologists have long called the Middle Pleistocene (now renamed Chibanian, from 774,000 to 129,000 years ago), the “muddle in the middle” -- not long after the lineages of modern humans and Neanderthal split some 800,000 years ago.
The authors of a paper, published in the journal Evolutionary Anthropology Issues News and Reviews, propose Homo bodoensis is a group of hominins that spread through Africa, the Mediterranean and Eurasia.
“Talking about human evolution during this time period became impossible due to the lack of proper terminology that acknowledges human geographic variation,” lead author Mirjana Roksandic, paleoanthropologist and professor at the University of Winnipeg, told UPI.
H. erectus appeared in Africa about 1.9 million years ago. Fossil evidence shows it survived until at least 250,000 years ago, making it by far the longest surviving of all our human relatives.
Previously two hominids, Homo heidelbergensis and Homo rhodesiensis, were presumed to be the common ancestor of modern humans.
In their analysis, the researchers suggest that a skull found in Bodo D’ar, Ethiopia belongs to neither H. heidelbergensis nor H. rhodesiensis. Instead, it is a new species entirely.
The new species had a short, stocky body. Males were likely about 1.75 metres tall and weighed almost 63kg, while females averaged 1.57m and around 50kg. The species went extinct around 200,000 years ago -- long before modern humans migrated out of Africa.