Discovery in Turkey upends theories of human origins

Discovery in Turkey upends theories of human origins
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8.7-million-year-old fossil ape challenges previously held beliefs.

An 8.7-million-year-old fossil ape discovered in Turkey reshapes how we view human origins. This groundbreaking find, unearthed at the Corakyerler fossil site, lends credence to the theory that the precursors of African apes and humans might have evolved in Europe before migrating to Africa between 7 and 9 million years ago.

The fossil ape, named Anadoluvius turkae, is part of the hominine group, encompassing African apes and humans. Detailed analysis of this fossil shows that Mediterranean fossil apes were diverse and integral to the earliest hominines, which include gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, humans, and their fossil predecessors.

Researchers from the University of Toronto and Ankara University led the study, which was recently published in Communications Biology. Professor David Begun from the University of Toronto commented on the findings, stating that hominines evolved in western and central Europe. They then spread to the eastern Mediterranean, spending over five million years maturing in the region before venturing into Africa, likely due to changing environmental conditions and diminishing forests.

The discovery results from an in-depth examination of a well-preserved partial skull found in 2015. This skull, consisting of the face and the brain case's frontal section, provided ample information to draw evolutionary connections.

Anadoluvius, roughly the size of a large male chimpanzee, was primarily terrestrial, living in dry forests. Based on its dental structure and the animals that lived alongside it, researchers believe its diet included tough terrestrial foods such as roots.

The animals associated with Anadoluvius, like rhinos, wart hogs, giraffes, zebras, and lion-like carnivores, are similar to those found in present-day African grasslands and dry forests. These ecological communities appear to have moved to Africa from the eastern Mediterranean about eight million years ago.

Concluding their research, the team posits that Anadoluvius and other fossil apes from nearby regions are closely related to the earliest known hominins. The newly discovered fossils provide the most robust evidence thus far that this early hominine group originated in Europe before dispersing into Africa.

While it's commonly believed that African apes and humans evolved solely in Africa, these findings suggest that early hominines were present in Europe and Anatolia but absent in Africa until approximately seven million years ago. This new evidence supports the theory of a European origin of hominines. However, more fossils from the 8-7 million-year range in Europe and Africa are needed to cement this connection.

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