A new human-like species have been discovered in a burial chamber deep in a cave system in South Africa, BBC reported.
According to researchers, the discovery of 15 partial skeletons is the largest single discovery of its type in Africa.
The scientists claim that the discovery will change ideas about our human ancestors.
The studies which have been published in the journal Elife also indicate that these individuals were capable of ritual behavior.
Photo National Geographic
The species, which has been named naledi, has been classified in the grouping, or genus, Homo, to which modern humans belong.
The researchers who made the find have not been able to find out how long ago these creatures lived.
Prof. Lee Berger, the scientist who led the team, told BBC that he believed they could be among the first of our kind (genus Homo) and could have lived in Africa up to three million years ago.
He also said naledi could be thought of as a “bridge” between more primitive bipedal primates and humans.
The haul of 15 partial skeletons includes both males and females of varying ages – from infants to elderly. The discovery is unprecedented in Africa and will shed more light on how the first humans evolved.
Researchers have unearthed a new species of ancient human in the Afar region of Ethiopia.
The study, published in the journal Nature, says the research team discovered jaw bones and teeth, which date to between 3.3 million and 3.5 million years old.
It means this new hominin was alive at the same time as several other early human species, suggesting our family tree is more complicated than was thought.
The new species has been called Australopithecus deyiremeda, which means “close relative” in the language spoken by the Afar people.
The ancient remains are thought to belong to four individuals, who would have had both ape and human-like features.
The age of the remains means that this was potentially one of four different species of early humans that were all alive at the same time.
The most famous of these is Australopithecus afarensis – known as Lucy – who lived between 2.9 million and 3.8 million years ago, and was initially thought to be our direct ancestor.
However, the discovery of another species called Kenyanthropus platyops in Kenya in 2001, and of Australopithecus bahrelghazali in Chad, and now Australopithecus deyiremedaI, suggests that there were several species co-existing.
Researchers have been able to trace a line between some of the earliest modern humans to settle in China and people living in the region today.
The evidence comes from DNA extracted from a 40,000-year-old leg bone found in a cave near Beijing.
Results show that the person it belonged to was related to the ancestors of present-day Asians and Native Americans.
The results are published in the journal PNAS.
Humans who looked broadly like present-day people started to appear in the fossil record of Eurasia between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago.
But many questions remain about the genetic relationships between these early modern humans and present-day Homo sapiens populations.
For example, some evidence hints at extensive migration into Europe after the last Ice Age.
And fossil finds from Red Deer Cave, also in China, and Iwo Eleru in Nigeria point to a hitherto unappreciated diversity among Late Pleistocene humans.
The team managed to extract genetic material from an ancient leg bone found in 2003 at the site of Tianyuan Cave outside Beijing.
Analysis of the Red Deer Cave fossils’ DNA showed that they were related to the ancestors of present-day Asians and Native Americans
They managed to extract the type of DNA found in the nuclei of cells (nuclear DNA) and genetic material from the cell’s “powerhouses” – known as mitochondria.
They used new techniques that can identify ancient genetic information from an archaeological find, even when large amounts of DNA from soil bacteria are also present.
Analysis of the person’s DNA showed that they were related to the ancestors of present-day Asians and Native Americans. But the analysis showed that this individual had already diverged from the ancestors of present-day Europeans.
“More analyses of additional early modern humans across Eurasia will further refine our understanding of when and how modern humans spread across Europe and Asia,” said co-author Svante Pääbo, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Research in the last few years has shown that early modern humans interbred with ancient human species such as the Neanderthals and Denisovans as they migrated from Africa and settled across the world.
Around 40,000 years ago, the Neanderthals and Denisovans were being replaced by Homo sapiens. Genetic studies of people living at this important crossover period could help scientists understand when and how this interbreeding took place.
The researchers found that the person from Tianyuan cave carried about the same proportion of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA as people in the region today.
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