New human ancestor species from Ethiopia lived alongside Lucy's species

New human ancestor species from Ethiopia lived alongside Lucy's species
Holotype upper jaw of a new human ancestor species found on March 4, 2011. Credit: Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Cleveland Museum of Natural History

A new relative joins "Lucy" on the human family tree. An international team of scientists, led by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, has discovered a 3.3 to 3.5 million-year-old new human ancestor species. Upper and lower jaw fossils recovered from the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region of Ethiopia have been assigned to the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. This hominin lived alongside the famous "Lucy's" species, Australopithecus afarensis. The species will be described in the May 28, 2015 issue of the international scientific journal Nature.

Lucy's species lived from 2.9 million years ago to 3.8 million years ago, overlapping in time with the Australopithecus deyiremeda. The new species is the most conclusive evidence for the contemporaneous presence of more than one closely related early human ancestor species prior to 3 million years ago. The species name "deyiremeda" (day-ihreme-dah) means "close relative" in the language spoken by the Afar people.

Australopithecus deyiremeda differs from Lucy's species in terms of the shape and size of its thick-enameled teeth and the robust architecture of its lower jaws. The anterior teeth are also relatively small indicating that it probably had a different diet.

"The new species is yet another confirmation that Lucy's species, Australopithecus afarensis, was not the only potential human ancestor species that roamed in what is now the Afar region of Ethiopia during the middle Pliocene," said lead author and Woranso-Mille project team leader Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. "Current fossil evidence from the Woranso-Mille study area clearly shows that there were at least two, if not three, early human species living at the same time and in close geographic proximity."

"The age of the new fossils is very well constrained by the regional geology, radiometric dating, and new paleomagnetic data," said co-author Dr. Beverly Saylor of Case Western Reserve University. The combined evidence from radiometric, paleomagnetic, and depositional rate analyses yields estimated minimum and maximum ages of 3.3 and 3.5 million years.

"This new species from Ethiopia takes the ongoing debate on early hominin diversity to another level," said Haile-Selassie. "Some of our colleagues are going to be skeptical about this new species, which is not unusual. However, I think it is time that we look into the earlier phases of our evolution with an open mind and carefully examine the currently available fossil evidence rather than immediately dismissing the fossils that do not fit our long-held hypotheses," said Haile-Selassie.

Scientists have long argued that there was only one pre-human species at any given time between 3 and 4 million years ago, subsequently giving rise to another new species through time. This was what the fossil record appeared to indicate until the end of the 20th century. However, the naming of Australopithecus bahrelghazali from Chad and Kenyanthropus platyops from Kenya, both from the same time period as Lucy's species, challenged this long-held idea. Although a number of researchers were skeptical about the validity of these species, the announcement by Haile-Selassie of the 3.4 million-year-old Burtele partial foot in 2012 cleared some of the skepticism on the likelihood of multiple early hominin species in the 3 to 4 million-year range.

The Burtele partial fossil foot did not belong to a member of Lucy's species. However, despite the similarity in geological age and close geographic proximity, the researchers have not assigned the partial foot to the new species due to lack of clear association. Regardless, the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda incontrovertibly confirms that multiple did indeed co-exist during this time period.

This discovery has important implications for our understanding of early hominin ecology. It also raises significant questions, such as how multiple early hominins living at the same time and geographic area might have used the shared landscape and available resources.

New human ancestor species from Ethiopia lived alongside Lucy's species
Cast of the holotype upper jaw of Australopithecus deyiremeda. Credit: Laura Dempsey

Discovery of Australopithecus deyiremeda:

The holotype (type specimen) of Australopithecus deyiremeda is an upper jaw with teeth discovered on March 4, 2011, on top of a silty clay surface at one of the Burtele localities. The paratype lower jaws were also surface discoveries found on March 4 and 5, 2011, at the same locality as the holotype and another nearby locality called Waytaleyta. The holotype upper jaw was found in one piece (except for one of the teeth which was found nearby), whereas the mandible was recovered in two halves that were found about two meters apart from each other. The other mandible was found about 2 kilometers east of where the Burtele specimens were found.

Location of the Discovery:

The fossil specimens were found in the Woranso-Mille Paleontological Project study area located in the central Afar region of Ethiopia about 325 miles (520 kilometers) northeast of the capital Addis Ababa and 22 miles (35 kilometers) north of Hadar ("Lucy's" site). Burtele and Waytaleyta are local names for the areas where the holotype and paratypes were found and they are located in the Mille district, Zone 1 of the Afar Regional State.

3 million-year-old forebear who lived alongside 'Lucy'
Scientists get their teeth into A. deyiremeda fossils. Credit: Laura Dempsey

The Woranso-Mille Project:

The Woranso-Mille Paleontological project conducts field and laboratory work in Ethiopia every year. This multidisciplinary project is led by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Additional co-authors of this research include: Dr. Luis Gibert of University of Barcelona (Spain), Dr. Stephanie Melillo of the Max Planck Institute (Leipzig, Germany), Dr. Timothy M. Ryan of Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Mulugeta Alene of Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Drs. Alan Deino and Gary Scott of the Berkeley Geochronology Center, Dr. Naomi E. Levin of Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Beverly Z. Saylor of Case Western Reserve University. Graduate and undergraduate students from Ethiopia and the United States of America also participated in the field and laboratory activities of the project.

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'Lucy' lived among close cousins: Discovery of foot fossil confirms two human ancestor species co-existed

More information: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature14448
Journal information: Nature

Provided by Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Citation: New human ancestor species from Ethiopia lived alongside Lucy's species (2015, May 27) retrieved 22 October 2019 from
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May 28, 2015
Excerpt: When seen from the Dmanisi perspective, morphological diversity in the African fossil Homo record around 1.8 Ma probably reflects variation between demes of a single evolving lineage, which is appropriately named H. erectus. The hypothesis of multiple independent lineages (paleospecies) (15, 31) appears less parsimonious, especially in the absence of empirical evidence for adaptation to separate ecological niches.

See my comments at: http://comments.s....1238484

May 28, 2015
"See my comments at: http://comments.s....1238484"

Nothing new to see there, same pseudoscience JVK as been spouting for years.

May 28, 2015
Likely - a troll must be a troll. [And for science reading noobs: JVK is the infamous "p... troll", easy to check the trash comments all over the web for many years.]

But as for the comment here, I was just going to say the same. Dmanisi is also controversial of course, but that indicates that variation is not securely observed as of yet. (Not surprisingly, few organisms fossilize and even fewer are found.)

It will take outside anthropologists to come down on one or the other ... Burtele ... foot, as it were

May 28, 2015
a troll must be a troll.

But as for the comment here, I was just going to say the same.

That's going to confuse people -- at least temporarily. What will others do, when a biologically uninformed science idiot starts to make the same claims about cell type differentiation that I have been making in a series of published works for more than 2 decades? See for examples:

If they side with Torbjorn_Larsson_OM, who simply repeats my claims, they are siding with someone whose published works and discussion posts that they consistently denigrate, while touting their ridiculous opinions about evolution.

But Torbjorn_Larsson_OM and James V. Kohl have both sided with John Hewitt in past discussions. It will be interesting to see what happens when all three of us side with Luca Turin and Edvard Moser.

Brain signals contain the code for your next move

May 28, 2015
... check the trash comments all over the web for many years.

Like this one? http://comments.s....1243490

My comment is linked to the work by Moser's group. See: http://www.nature...162.html

Who explained how the "Modern Synthesis" links "Coordination of entorhinal–hippocampal ensemble activity during associative learning"

In my model of RNA-directed DNA methylation and RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions that differentiate the cell types of all individuals of all genera, the light-induced de novo creation of amino acids is linked to the conserved molecular mechanisms of biophysically constrained associative learning by the ability to acquire nutrients and the fixation of amino acid substitutions in the context of the nutrient-dependent physiology of reproduction.

Simply put, if an organism doesn't learn to find food, it does not contribute to extant biodiversity.

May 28, 2015
These researchers want only to get the funding and will find for sure what is needed from them. All teir previuos findings are rejected by science as fake but the trials continue. They beleave in miracles but do not beleave in Creator because He have high standard and expectations for the people and not all people will respond to these standards adequate.

May 28, 2015
@ viko_mx

Thanks, but you just invited the biologically uninformed science idiots to attack this discussion and turn it into one about religion.

That ensures the discussion will lead nowhere, which is what they want to happen. It is the only way they can continue to participate here by denigrating the works of others. Eventually, anyone who attempts to follow the discussion is left with no hope for intelligent discussion.

Surprisingly, the moderators at seem to promote what will lead to the end of this venue as an information source for discussion.

May 28, 2015
Likely - a troll must be a troll. [And for science reading noobs: JVK is the infamous "p... troll", easy to check the trash comments all over the web for many years.]
plus, he has a history of not being able to comprehend anyone else's work, demonstrated time and again here on PO when he tries to "interpret" what is being said
from Dr. Extavour and Lenski to Dr. Whittaker

this site is only your own self promotion because you cannot get any actual reputable science site to publish your creationist/7th day adventist dogma


May 28, 2015
Like this one? http://comments.s....1243490
so far to date, on ScienceMag, there have been no serious comments given by you, jk

just because you can troll a serious science journal doesn't mean that you are supported in your creationist dogma

i noticed that in the comments you are listing, you are being IGNORED by all the actual scientists

you even revert to commenting on your OWN comments because no one else will

i wonder why that is?
start with the fact that you are promoting PSEUDOSCIENCE
couple that with your religious dogma which you repeatedly linked here supporting your own BS

your comments on ScienceMag have also been reported
there are several complaints lodged against you at ScienceMag because of your continual pushing of non-scientific data and pseudoscience

May 28, 2015
creationist dogma

Re: http://comments.s....1243490

(From December 2013) Excerpt: "We might then expect to see seemingly futile cycles of thermodynamically controlled nutrient-dependent protein biosynthesis and degradation result in conservation of genes associated with increased fitness in one ecological niche that might not be conserved in an organism that was competing for survival in the same ecological niche."

That appears to be what happened when the bacterial flagellum re-evolved "over-the-weekend." The variants that ecologically adapted survived via their nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled physiology of reproduction and fixation of the amino acid substitutions that were required to link the ecologically adapted structure to its prior function (e.g., movement to find food).

See: http://www.the-sc...ewiring/

May 28, 2015
See: http://www.the-sc...ewiring/

Pieter Snotter "Fixation of amino acid substitutions that stabilize the genome" I do not understand this. Can you be more concrete?

Forrest M. Mims III "...where is the evolution headlined in this piece? ... these bacteria are provided with a carefully engineered backup system much like moderrn spacecraft, aircraft and computers."

Barrick attested to the facts in my model of nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological adaptation. Others have noticed that this does not fit with any claims about "Bottled Evolution" http://www.scienc...90.short

Lenski and Barrick provide experimental evidence of ecological variation that leads to ecological adaptation, which occurred with the bacterial flagellum in 4 days. If they experimented with Pseudomonas, they would change their terms to fit what is currently known by serious scientists.

May 28, 2015
For additional discussion of links between George Church's works that link amino acid substitutions to cell type differentiation and Lenski's misrepresentations of biologically-based cause and effect, see:


Excerpt: His hopes for containment via a synthetic amino acid may have been dashed when others reported the re-evolution of the bacterial flagellum in 4 days. The bacteria were engineered to lack a flagellum. They managed to find enough nutrients to ecologically adapt via RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions and reconstruction of their complex "propeller."

May 28, 2015
Spag17 Deficiency Results in Skeletal Malformations and Bone Abnormalities

Excerpt: Spag17 encodes a protein present in cilia and flagella with a "9+2" axoneme structure. SPAG17 protein is present in the central pair complex (CPC).

Spag17 appears to link 4 days of nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological adaptations from ecological variation to the new bacterial flagellum and sex differences in the cell types of humans via the conserved molecular mechanisms of biophysically constrained nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled fixation of RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions in the organized DNA of species from microbes to humans.

This was reported as "Researchers identify unexpected functions in the determination of height for a gene expressed in sperm"


What do you think they expected would link microbes to humans: MUTATIONS?

May 29, 2015
For additional discussion of links between George Church's works
are you really trying to use FACEBOOK as a scientific reference?
because everyone knows that facebook appeals to the scientific crowd and would never publish anything that is factually incorrect or scientifically wrong... is that what you are saying?

so, why are you not denigrating Dr. Whittaker like you have Dr. Extavour since there is specific refutation of your claims on the link you specifically used to support your conclusions regarding mutations?
that is what you started doing once Dr. Extavour outed you as being wrong...

is that what we will see from you about Dr. Whittaker now?

PS- i love the backpedaling and attempts to justify your religion and beliefs with facebook
that was truly comical

May 31, 2015
"when a biologically uninformed science idiot".

I suppose the troll is attempting a description of me. And he makes two (2!) obvious lies in the rest of the comment (that I repeat trolls and that I have sided with another creationist, as he seems to be, Hewitt). Poor sod, no one will accept that anymore than they accept the rest of his trolling. First rule of holes, stop digging.*

Speaking of biologically uninformed science idiot, this troll happens to reject the basic process in biology, evolution, and has been seen parading creationism around (IIRC). So that is a hilarious attempt at defamation! =D

*Of course, the first rule of trolls is to not feed them... I'll try harder.

May 31, 2015
Excerpt: Bear was one of the first sci-fi authors to delve deep into the possibilities of synthetic biology. In this section, a biologist... is infected with a killer virus that has wiped out most of North America.

See also the article: "The Darwin Code" by Greg Bear.

It extends his prescient understanding of virus-driven cell type differentiation from species of microbes to humans via the conserved molecular mechanisms of biophysically constrained protein biosynthesis and degradation without all the technical jargon.

Who needs to learn about how glycosylation and microRNAs link RNA-mediated cell type differentiation in all cells of all individuals of all genera when Greg Bear integrated the physics, chemistry, and biology in 1985, 1999, and 2003? It's easier to enjoy his novels and learn than to learn about biologically-based cause and effect from molecular biologists.

May 31, 2015
Haile-Selassie? Really? The holy prophet of rastas is doing science!? Lord have mercy.

Jun 01, 2015
Уou only have to imagine what must be done to create a single celled organism from the scratch. For this purpose you should have a thorough knowledge of microbiology

Thanks again Ren82.

The problem for theorists is that they don't know anything about microbiology. They link Lenski's experiments from mutations to evolution. That's why they won't comment on "re-evolution" of the bacterial flagellum, which occurred in 4 days.

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