July 13, 2024

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The discovery of an 8.7-million-year-old ape fossil challenges long-accepted ideas about human origins

The discovery of an 8.7-million-year-old ape fossil challenges long-accepted ideas about human origins

A new face and partial brain case of Anadolophius turkae, a fossil hominin – the group that includes African apes and humans – from the Korakirler fossil site located in central Anatolia, Turkey. Image source: Sevim Erol, A., Begun, DR, Sozer, CS. et al.

Anatolovius has been around for approximately 9 million years, and is an ancestor of living African apes and humans.

The recent discovery of an 8.7-million-year-old fossilized monkey at a site in Turkey challenges long-accepted ideas about human origins. This finding supports the hypothesis that the ancestors of African apes and humans may have evolved in Europe and later migrated to Africa around 7 to 9 million years ago.

Analysis of a newly identified ape named Anadoluvius turkae, recovered from the Korakierler fossil site near Çankırı with support from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, shows that Mediterranean fossil apes are diversified and are part of the first known radiation of early hominins. – the group. This includes African apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas), humans and their fossil ancestors.

The results are described in a study recently published in Communication biology It was co-authored by an international team of researchers led by Professor David Begin of the University of Toronto (U of T) and Professor Ayla Sevim Erol of the University of Ankara.

“Our findings also suggest that hominins not only evolved in western and central Europe, but spent more than five million years evolving there and spreading to the eastern Mediterranean before eventually spreading to Africa, perhaps,” Begin said. as a result of changing environments and diminishing forests.” Professor in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Toronto. “Members of this radiate to which Anadelvius belongs are currently only identified in Europe and Anatolia.”

The conclusion is based on analysis of a well-preserved skull fragment discovered at the site in 2015, which includes most of the facial structure and the anterior part of the brain case.

“The completion of the fossil allowed us to perform a broader and more detailed analysis using many characters and traits that were coded into software designed to calculate evolutionary relationships,” Begin said. “The face is often complete, after applying mirror imaging. The new part is the forehead, with the bones preserved almost to the crown of the skull. The fossils described earlier do not contain this much brain state.

Fossil of Anatolophius of Torquay at the site

Excavation of Anadoluvius turkae, a well-preserved partial skull discovered at the Korakierler fossil site in Turkey in 2015. The fossil includes most of the facial structure and the anterior part of the brain case. Credit: Ayla Sevim Erol

The researchers say that Anadolophius was about the size of a large male chimpanzee (50-60kg) — very large for a chimpanzee and close to the average size of a female gorilla (75-80kg) — and it lived in a dry jungle environment, and it lived in a dry jungle environment. He may have spent too much time on Earth.

“We don’t have limb bones, but judging from its jaws and teeth, the animals next to it, and the geological indications of the environment, Anadolovius probably lived in relatively open conditions, unlike the forest environment in which great apes live,” Sevim Erol said. “More like what we think the environments of early humans in Africa were like. Strong jaws and large teeth with thick enamel indicate a diet that included hard or tough food items from terrestrial sources such as roots and roots.

The animals that lived with the Anatolovius are those commonly associated with African grasslands and dry forests today, such as giraffes, warthogs, rhinos, various antelopes, zebras, elephants, porcupines, hyenas, and lion-like carnivores. Research shows that the ecological community appears to have spread to Africa from the eastern Mediterranean sometime around eight million years later.

“The foundation of modern open African fauna in the eastern Mediterranean has been known for a long time, and now we can add to the list of arrivals the ancestors of African apes and humans,” said Sevim Erol.

Korakirl excavation site

Korakirl excavation site. This fossil settlement of vertebrates near Cankiri in Turkey is one of the most important human settlements in Eurasia. As a result of nearly 20 years of excavations, Korakilar has taken its place among the important reference sites of the late Miocene in Anatolia and Europe with 8 orders of mammals, more than 10 families and 43 species. Credit: Ayla Sevim Erol

The results establish that Anadoluvius turkae is a branch of the part of the evolutionary tree that gave rise to chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and humans. Although today’s African apes are only known in Africa, as are the oldest known humans, the study authors — who also include colleagues at Ece University and Pamukkale University in Turkey and the Center for Natural Biodiversity in the Netherlands — conclude that the ancestors of both came from Europe. and eastern Mediterranean.

The Anatolian and other fossil apes from neighboring Greece (Uranopithecus) and Bulgaria (Gracopithecus) form a group that approaches in many details of its anatomy and ecology the oldest known hominins, or humans. The new fossils are the best preserved specimens of this group of early hominins and provide the strongest evidence yet that the group originated in Europe and then spread into Africa.

A detailed analysis of the study also reveals that Balkan and Anatolian monkeys evolved from ancestors in Western and Central Europe. With its most comprehensive data, the research provides evidence that these other apes were also hominids, meaning that it is more likely that the entire group evolved and diversified in Europe, rather than the alternative scenario in which separate branches of earlier apes moved independently to Europe. from Africa over several million years, and then became extinct without a problem.

“There is no evidence for the latter, although it remains the preferred suggestion among those who do not accept the European origin hypothesis,” Begoun said. “These findings contradict the long-held view that African primates and humans evolved exclusively in Africa. While remains of early hominins are plentiful in Europe and Anatolia, they were completely absent from Africa until the first hominins appeared there about seven million years ago.” year.

“This new evidence supports the hypothesis that hominins originated in Europe and spread into Africa with many other mammals between nine and seven million years ago, although it does not definitively prove it. For this reason, we need to find more fossils from Europe and Africa between eight and seven million years old to establish a definite relationship between the two groups.

Reference: “New Ape from Turkey and the Radiation of Late Miocene Hominins” by Ayla Sevim-Erol, DR Begun, ç. Sonmez Sozer, S. Maeda, LW van den Hoek Ostend, RMG Martin, and M. Jihat Alchishek, August 23, 2023, Available here. Communication biology.
doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-05210-5

The study was funded by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the University of Ankara, and the Turkish Historical Society.

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