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Path of human evolution continues to be enriched and elucidated by growing trove of fossil evidence

In comments to the media, renowned paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey opined that the evolution debate "would soon be over" thanks to a growing wealth of fossil evidence.  The latest piece of the puzzle comes courtesy of Professor Leakey's wife, Meave Leakey, and his mother, Louise Leakey, who are busy working on the excavation of a site east of Lake Turkana.

I. Two New Branches on the Evolutionary Tree

Located in Eastern Africa, specifically in the north of Kenya and south of Ethiopia, the Turkana Basin has been the site of some of many astonishing and fortunate fossil discoveries that have given mankind a glimpse of its evolutionary ancestors.  In fact the region proved so fruitful that the Leakey family of famed anthropologists raised funds to open Turkana Basin Institute (TBI), a special research institution devoted to studying the region's fossils and human evolution.

The recent discoveries were made by Professors Louise and Meave Leakey, along with other TBI researchers and researchers from the Koobi Fora Research Project (KFRP) -- a evolutionary research team funded by the National Geographic Society.

Lake Turkana Basin
The Turkana basin is located in Eastern Africa. [Orig. Image Source: Google Maps]

Unearthed between 2007 and 2009, the find includes a face, a remarkably complete lower jaw, and part of a second lower jaw.  Researchers believe that the fossils belong to not one, but two genus Homo species, which lived beside mankind's direct ancestor, Homo erectus.

II. Solving a Big Mystery

The find solves the mystery of KNM-ER 1470 -- the research designation given to a mysterious hominid skull fossil found four decades ago.  The KNM-ER 1470 specimen featured a striking long, flat-face -- à la the pop culture depiction of an alien -- and a large brain size.

Researchers were unsure if the fossil was truly a different species or simply an unusual variant of Homo erectus.

Professor Meave Leakey enthuses, "For the past 40 years we have looked long and hard in the vast expanse of sediments around Lake Turkana for fossils that confirm the unique features of 1470's face and show us what its teeth and lower jaw would have looked like.  At last we have some answers."

Complete specimen
The stellar jaw specimen (bottom) fits perfectly on the restored KNM-ER 1470 skull (top).  
[Image Source: Fred Spoor]

The new finds left little doubt among researchers that KNM-ER 1470 was indeed a separate species, and as an added surprise, they also indicated that one of the two specimens dug up during the various excavations was a second relative.

Comments Fred Spoor who led the analysis of the specimens unearthed by the Leakey team, "Combined, the three new fossils give a much clearer picture of what 1470 looked like.  As a result, it is now clear that two species of early Homo lived alongside Homo erectus. The new fossils will greatly help in unraveling how our branch of human evolution first emerged and flourished almost two million years ago."

The KNM-ER 1470 look alike was found in 2008.  Dubbed KNM-ER 62000, the individual is thought to have lived between 1.78 million and 1.95 million years ago (placing it in the early Pleistocene era), according to isotopic dating techniques.  

Hominid Jaw
The semi-complete skull and upper jaw provided promising clues. [Image Source: Nature]

The find included a complete skull with most of the cheek teeth present in the well-preserved upper jaw, allowing researchers to infer the shape of the lower jaw.

Hominid jawHominid Jaw
The KNM-ER 60000 jaw was the best lower jaw specimen recovered to date. [Image Source: Nature]

The skull allowed a 2007 partial lower jaw discovered by Robert Moru, dubbed KNM-ER 62003, to be confirmed as a member of the new species.  Likewise, another jaw discovered in 2009 by Cyprian Nyete -- KNM-ER 60000 -- further enriched the picture.  The 60000 specimen was the most complete hominid lower jaw ever discovered by researchers to date.

III. Much Work Remains

The discovery was truly a breathtaking process, beginning with geological analysis of probable sites for preserved remains, funded by the Leakey Foundation.  With promising dig sites pinpointed, the National Geographic Society provided funding for the successful fieldwork, a half decade ago.  And the Max Plank Society also chipped in, funding the laboratory work on the unearthed fossils.

The finished paper [abstract] on the groundbreaking work was published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nature.  Its authors include Christopher Kiarie (TBI), who carried out the laboratory preparation of the fossils, Craig Feibel (Rutgers University), who studied the age of the fossils, and Susan Antón (New York University), Christopher Dean (UCL, University College London), Meave and Louise Leakey (TBI, Kenya; and Stony Brook University, New York) and Fred Spoor (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig and UCL), who analyzed the fossils.

Leakeys
The Leakey ladies with their outstanding find. [Image Source: National Geographic]

While the terrific find solves many unanswered questions about hominid evolution, it raises yet others.  These species clearly have not survived to the present day, but it is unclear what their true fate is.

Recent sequencing of the Neanderthal genome revealed that humans surprisingly interbred with this co-existing species, allowing some of its genetic material to be preserved even after it was displaced by Homo sapiens and went extinct.  Likewise, these new hominids could have interbred with Homo erectus, contributing scraps of valuable DNA that helped create the creature that we today know as a "human".

There's much work to be done on the eve of this discovery.

Sources: Nature, National Geographic Society



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RE: Lying Bones
By talikarni on 8/9/2012 3:52:17 PM , Rating: -1
There is more proof of events from the Bible than there is of evolution... try again kiddo.

Remember, evolution is still a THEORY... versus the Bible was taken from real transcripts written by real people. They can be touched and felt. There is no way over a few thousand years that man or anything can be turned from money to human, or beagle to wolf...


RE: Lying Bones
By eggman on 8/9/2012 4:10:23 PM , Rating: 5
"written by real people" with an agenda no doubt


RE: Lying Bones
By Hexus on 8/9/2012 4:26:20 PM , Rating: 5
You obviously have no idea what THEORY means in the scientific world.

I can touch a copy of Harry Potter. Which was written by real people. Doesn't mean it's real. You're logic is flawed friend.


RE: Lying Bones
By waykizool on 8/9/2012 4:28:14 PM , Rating: 3
You keep using that word, but I don't think you know what it means.

Theory - In modern science, the term "theory" refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method, and fulfilling the criteria required by modern science.

Hypothesis - People refer to a trial solution to a problem as a hypothesis, often called an "educated guess" because it provides a suggested solution based on the evidence.

And we're not talking thousands of years, this is hundreds of thousands to millions of years.

Try keeping an open mind to things as well, the Bible says God created man, but keep in mind, it doesn't say HOW.


RE: Lying Bones
By morob05 on 8/9/2012 9:38:27 PM , Rating: 3
LOL, it does say how. He shaped adam out of dirt and blew into his nostrils the breath of life! Then he stole one of adams ribs while he was sleeping and created Eve.


RE: Lying Bones
By maugrimtr on 8/10/2012 8:22:58 AM , Rating: 5
And after witnessing Man write that down, He erupted in laughter, shook his head, and moved out a few light years to check on other random planets showing evidence of sentient life that might not be so ridiculously gullible.


RE: Lying Bones
By ppardee on 8/14/2012 2:09:54 PM , Rating: 2
First, the quote is "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Hypothesis is an educated guess.

Theory is a hypothesis that has withstood repeated testing and has been accepted by a consensus (lots of people say.. yeah, sounds reasonable to me!) but can still be disproved.

Law is a theory to which no exceptions have been found.

Evolution is a theory by virtue of people coming to a consensus, not by testing. It has never been tested to my knowledge. Never once have we observed significant changes in an organism that would constitute anything other than adaptation. Evolution requires new genetic info to be injected into an organism - easy for prokaryotes, not so much for eukaryotes - or mutation of existing genes, which is harmful in all observations I'm aware of.


RE: Lying Bones
By morob05 on 8/14/2012 8:52:38 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry dude, but you don't understand. A law is by no means a theory to which no exceptions has been found. Law and theory are 2 entirely different things all together. A law does NOT attempt to explain any phenomena at all. The purpose of a theory on the other hand is to provide an explanation for natural phenomena. A theory is the closest thing you will get to fact within science.

Scientific hypothesis:
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it. Scientists generally base scientific hypotheses on previous observations that cannot satisfactorily be explained with the available scientific theories.

Scientific theory:
A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Scientists create scientific theories from hypotheses that have been corroborated through the scientific method, then gather evidence to test their accuracy.

Scientific law:
A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observation that describes some aspect of the world. A scientific law always applies under the same conditions, and implies that there is a causal relationship involving its elements.
Laws differ from scientific theories in that they do not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: they are merely distillations of the results of repeated observation.

Evolution has in fact been confirmed through experimentation and observation, time and time again. It would NOT be a theory if it hadn't! Evolution does NOT require new genetic information to be injected into an organism. That's an insane notion... New genetic information arises through the re-arrangement of existing genetic information and through mutations. Mutations are NOT all harmful, many beneficial mutations has been observed, both within the general populations of humans and animals and also in lab-experiments. Evolution IS adaptation. If you believe that different organisms adapt to different environments, then i'd pretty much say that you believe in evolution. For whatever weird reason you just don't like to call it evolution.


RE: Lying Bones
By ClownPuncher on 8/9/2012 4:28:55 PM , Rating: 2
Good troll.


RE: Lying Bones
By GmTrix on 8/10/2012 9:18:06 AM , Rating: 2
Any time someone uses the word "kiddo" I can feel my blood start to boil. Even when I know its a troll.


RE: Lying Bones
By FormulaRedline on 8/9/2012 4:35:40 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
There is no way over a few thousand years that man or anything can be turned from money to human

I'd agree. It would be awfully hard to turn money into humans. But, in the last few thousand years, religion has proven a good way for it's leaders to turn people into money.


RE: Lying Bones
By retrospooty on 8/9/2012 4:38:19 PM , Rating: 2
"Remember, evolution is still a THEORY..."

Sorry, no. There is mountains of evidence from our own DNA, to Geologic, to archeological evidence. The whole thing has been mapped out, we have fossils that show our gradual evolution from Ape to man.

We evolved from microscopic organisms on this 4.5 billion year old planet... Live with it.


RE: Lying Bones
By Flunk on 8/9/2012 4:44:30 PM , Rating: 5
No, no, he's definitely right. It's a theory, like gravity. That's why creationists always strap themselves to the bed at night so that they don't fly away.


RE: Lying Bones
By retrospooty on 8/9/2012 4:51:36 PM , Rating: 3
I think he may have had too much of the theory of relativity in his gene pool and the resulting inbreeding has affected his ability to think clearly and evaluate reality.


RE: Lying Bones
By ShaolinSoccer on 8/9/12, Rating: -1
RE: Lying Bones
By retrospooty on 8/9/2012 7:44:25 PM , Rating: 5
There is nothing wrong with accepting god, or the possibility of a god. - That is called faith.

There is something seriously wrong with denying the overwhelming mountain of genetic, fossil, and archaeological evidence that proves we evolved. - That is called complete denial.


RE: Lying Bones
By Belard on 8/15/2012 5:51:18 AM , Rating: 1
But you see, now you're really just putting crap out of thin air. Now God has to be born from something or some one. So who is the real God? First if God created everything, then he cannot have been born. Otherwise what made him/her/it?

Its all kind of silly, after all - do you believe the Easter Bunny is any less real or not as "God"?

Maybe if we had creators, they were Aliens from outer space, needing some slave labor or science experiment. WE do such things our selves (power of the Gods)... which would then mean, God is not a God - just some guy playing with some cells in a laboratory... and he's been dead for a very long time.

Who knows? Lets saw all humans vanished tomorrow. It would take only a few thousand years to get rid of most proof of our existence. Give it 100,000+ years, unless theres bones - everything crumbles to dust.

Afterall, the OIL we drill up and eventually burn off in our case is exactly that. Very OLD nasty carbon is made from trees and animals from millions of years ago. Nothing more. Let a human being rot in a jar- the meat turns black and oily, eventually turning into goo.


RE: Lying Bones
By AntiM on 8/9/2012 5:02:49 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
There is more proof of events from the Bible than there is of evolution... try again kiddo.


The study of genetics alone has provided ample evidence for evolution, not to mention the fossil record.

There is no evidence that Moses ever existed. There is no definitive agreement by biblical scholars as to who wrote the various books of the Bible, only that is was written by various people. If anyone can provide any scrap of evidence that Jesus even existed, I would happily give it serious consideration. However, not second and third hand accounts from people that lived decades after his supposed death.
I don't seek to insult or ridicule, I only seek the truth. If you actually knew anything about evolution, you would know that it doesn't claim that humans came from monkeys, only that we have a common ancestor hundreds of thousands of years in the distant past.
I honestly think the debate is over.


RE: Lying Bones
By amosbatto on 8/10/2012 10:14:23 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
If anyone can provide any scrap of evidence that Jesus even existed, I would happily give it serious consideration. However, not second and third hand accounts from people that lived decades after his supposed death.

I remember reading some biblical scholar who commented that all the contemporary Roman writers seemed to accept that there was a man named Jesus; instead, they argued that the resurrection never happened. From that he concluded that we can be reasonable sure that there was a man named Jesus.


RE: Lying Bones
By morob05 on 8/9/2012 11:47:39 PM , Rating: 5
When will you creationists learn the difference between scientific hypothesis, scientific theory and scientific law? It's painfully agonizing to constantly watch you fucking around the scientific terminology, without having the slightest clue on what the definitions of the terminology are! A simple search on wikipedia would clarify much for you:

Scientific hypothesis:
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it. Scientists generally base scientific hypotheses on previous observations that cannot satisfactorily be explained with the available scientific theories.

Scientific theory:
A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Scientists create scientific theories from hypotheses that have been corroborated through the scientific method, then gather evidence to test their accuracy.

Scientific law:
A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observation that describes some aspect of the world. A scientific law always applies under the same conditions, and implies that there is a causal relationship involving its elements.
Laws differ from scientific theories in that they do not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: they are merely distillations of the results of repeated observation.


RE: Lying Bones
By MozeeToby on 8/10/2012 12:48:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, no matter how often it is pointed out, they will never understand that, in many ways, a theory is more profoundly impressive than a law. After all, both have similar levels of evidence supporting them, but a theory says so, so much more.

Law of gravity: Things are attracted to other things!
Theory of gravity: Mass warps space-time, when we see an object fall in a graceful curve to the ground, you're actually seeing that object travel through a straight line in 4 dimensional space!

Which is a more impressive statement?


RE: Lying Bones
By senecarr on 8/10/2012 8:21:57 AM , Rating: 2
How can the Bible provide proof when it contradicts itself? Genesis starts off by telling two different stories of creation that have conflicts. Obviously by process of elimination, the Bible has to disprove parts of itself.


RE: Lying Bones
By topkill on 8/10/2012 9:53:49 AM , Rating: 2
ROFL Look dude, if you want to believe the Bible, then you go for it and I hope it brings you peace, joy and happiness (as long as you're not using it as an excuse to kill/hate other people as some are prone to do).

But if you want to talk proof, real people writing things down is about as silly of a statement as I've ever heard. Real people have written down pretty much every religion on the planet by now. What exactly do you think that has to do with anything?

Seriously, I'm curious....what do you really think that proves? As has been pointed out: Does that make Harry Potter real?

Have you ever heard of Gilgamesh?


RE: Lying Bones
By retrospooty on 8/10/2012 10:04:36 AM , Rating: 2
"Have you ever heard of Gilgamesh?"

Ah yes, aka Jesus rev 1.

The bible Jesus is actually rev 2 as its a near exact duplicate of the earlier Babylonian story.


RE: Lying Bones
By MozeeToby on 8/10/2012 12:51:26 PM , Rating: 2
I think if you look at history, you'll find the basic story of Jesus (son of a god, killed for claiming such, rises from the dead some days later) repeated more than twice. Closer to two dozen in fact.


RE: Lying Bones
By Reclaimer77 on 8/10/2012 10:36:06 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Have you ever heard of Gilgamesh?


Hundreds of years from now, Starship captains still tell his tale..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoM_kPGfkw0


RE: Lying Bones
By retrospooty on 8/10/2012 12:35:43 PM , Rating: 2
LOL... I remeber that one. Darmok and Gilad at Tanagra. A great introspective episode. Picard was awesome.


RE: Lying Bones
By Reclaimer77 on 8/10/2012 4:35:55 PM , Rating: 2
Shaka...when the walls fell.


RE: Lying Bones
By retrospooty on 8/10/2012 5:18:15 PM , Rating: 2
Sokath, his eyes uncovered


RE: Lying Bones
By topkill on 8/14/2012 9:27:18 AM , Rating: 2
Oh, that was a great one! I forgot all about that :-)


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