The Ledi Jaw

A fossil lower jaw found in the Ledi-Geraru research area, Afar Regional State, Ethiopia, pushes back evidence for the human genus -- Homo -- to 2.8 million years ago, according to a pair of reports published March 4 in the online version of the journal Science. The jaw predates the previously known fossils of the Homo lineage by approximately 400,000 years. It was discovered in 2013 by an international team led by Arizona State University scientists. For decades, scientists have been searching for African fossils documenting the earliest phases of the Homo lineage.

Specimens recovered from the critical time interval between 3 and 2.5 million years ago have been frustratingly few and often poorly preserved. As a result, there has been little agreement on the time of origin of the lineage that ultimately gave rise to modern humans. At 2.8 million years, the new Ledi-Geraru fossil provides clues to changes in the jaw and teeth in Homo only 200,000 years after the last known occurrence of Australopithecus afarensis ("Lucy") from the nearby Ethiopian site of Hadar. "The Ledi jaw helps narrow the evolutionary gap between Australopithecus and early Homo," says William H. Kimbel, director of ASU's Institute of Human Origins.

 

"It's an excellent case of a transitional fossil in a critical time period in human evolution."


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