Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Monkey In The Mirror: Man's earliest ancestor had apelike face

Left: Dr. Richard Leakey’s reconstruction shows an erroneous vertical facial profile on a 1.9 million-year-old early human skull. Right: Bromage’s computer-simulated reconstruction shows the same skull with a distinctly protruding jaw. Green and red lines compare the location of the eyes, ears, and mouth, which must be in precise relationship to one another in all mammals. Credit: Dr. Timothy Bromage
From the press release:

A computer-generated reconstruction shows a 1.9 million-year-old skull belonging to Homo rudolfensis, the earliest member of the human genus, with a surprisingly small brain and distinctly protruding jaw, features commonly associated with more apelike members of the hominid family living as much as three million years ago.

Dr. Bromage's findings call into question the extent to which H. rudolfensis differed from earlier, more apelike hominid species. Specifically, he is the first scientist to produce a reconstruction of the skull that questions renowned paleontologist and archeologist Richard Leakey"s depiction of modern man"s earliest direct ancestor as having a vertical facial profile and a relatively large brain – an interpretation widely accepted until now.

Dr. Bromage's reconstruction also suggests that humans developed a larger brain and more vertical face with a less pronounced jaw and smaller teeth at least 300,000 years later than commonly believed, perhaps as recently as 1.6 million to one million years ago, when two later species, H. ergaster and H. erectus, lived. Dr. Bromage presented his findings today at the annual scientific session of the International Association for Dental Research in New Orleans.