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Our common ancestor with chimps may be from Europe, not Africa

23 May 2017

This conclusion is likely to draw some criticism: the divergence of apes and humans is believed to have taken place in Africa roughly six million years ago.

Present-day chimpanzees are humans' nearest living relatives and where the last chimp-human common ancestor lived is a central and highly debated issue in palaeoanthropology.

It features two partially fused roots, a trait characteristic of early hominids but not ancient apes, a team led by geoscientist Jochen Fuss of the University of Tübingen in Germany reports May 22 in PLOS ONE.

In a new study, researchers re-analysed Graecopithecus freybergi - a little-known species of dubious taxonomy originally described from a lower jaw bone fossil found in 1944 in Greece.

They found large amounts of Saharan sand in layers dating from the period, suggesting that it lay much further North than today.

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According to an worldwide research team headed by Professor Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen and Professor Nikolai Spassov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the salts found in the dust also show these remains to be from the Mediterranean region. Their findings are based on two fossils of species discovered in Greece and Bulgaria.

An upper premolar tooth of Graecopithecus freybergi.

After many years of evolution, certain species - known as hominines, a term collectively referring to gorillas, chimps, humans and their direct ancestors - then traveled back to Europe and Asia around 14 million years ago, Böhme said.

"If this is indeed a human, it would be the oldest human ancestor known and the first to be identified outside of Africa", one of the researchers, David Begun from the University of Toronto, Canada, told ScienceAlert.

The post Humans split from apes in Europe, not Africa: study appeared first on Vanguard News.

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On top of that, to confirm that Graecopithecus was a hominin, we'd need to examine additional features, not just teeth.

Begun and colleagues used a special CT scanning device to produce 3-D versions of Graecopithecus teeth, including roots hidden by the jawbone.

The creature they discovered, named Graecopithecus freybergi, is nicknameded "El Graeco".

A jawbone discovered by German troops in Athens during the Second World War could be evidence that apes and humans diverged 200,000 years earlier than the current theory says. This proved that Graecopithecus is of human lineage which is known as Hominins. The "near consensus", Kelley said in an email, is that "the hominin lineage arose in Africa". "If you have one tooth", he said, "that means there has to be other specimens out there".

Tooth characteristics of a chimpanzee-sized primate that once lived in southeastern European suggest that the primate, known as Graecopithecus, may have been a hominid, not an ape as many researchers assume. Some of the earliest hominins didn't have these fused tooth roots, whereas some of the later hominins did, he said. "Our research shows that the earliest humans may have evolved in Europe".

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Our common ancestor with chimps may be from Europe, not Africa