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Human origins not in Africa?

An artist's reconstruction of Graecopithecus freybergi, left, with the jawbone and tooth found in Bulgaria and Greece CREDIT: University of Toronto

In a groundbreaking study, scientists have unearthed an ancient ape skull, Anadoluvius turkae, in Turkey's Cankiri region, dating back at least 8.7 million years. This remarkable find has ignited a debate, questioning the conventional belief that all apes and humans share an African origin.

Contrary to the prevailing wisdom that suggests apes and humans evolved exclusively in Africa, this discovery suggests a different narrative.

According to Professor David Begun, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Toronto and co-senior author of the study, "Our findings further suggest that hominins not only evolved in western and central Europe but spent over five million years evolving there and spreading to the eastern Mediterranean before eventually dispersing into Africa, probably as a consequence of changing environments and diminishing forests.

"However, it's essential to note that this evidence, while compelling, falls short of definitively proving this hypothesis. To establish a potential connection between these European and African groups, researchers emphasize the need for additional fossils dating back seven to eight million years on both continents.

This discovery challenges the long-standing notion that early hominins, including humans and African apes, originated exclusively in Africa. If validated, it would signify that apes existed in Europe long before their presence in Africa, reshaping our understanding of our evolutionary history.

While this revelation has garnered attention and sparked debate within the scientific community, not all experts are convinced.

Professor Chris Stringer, a research leader in human evolution at the Natural History Museum in London, suggests that this find may not alter the prevailing consensus that hominins originated in Africa from Miocene ape ancestors.

Intriguingly, this discovery provides new insights into the lifestyle of these ancient apes. It indicates that they may have weighed between 110 to 130 pounds, inhabited a dry forest environment, and possibly had a significant terrestrial lifestyle.

Unearthed in 2015, the significance of this skull has only recently been brought to light in a publication in the journal Communications Biology. While it challenges established theories, the debate on our great ape and human origins continues, with further research and discoveries expected to shed more light on this intriguing aspect of our history.

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