The discovery of an ancient ape skull has raised serious questions about whether humans shared a European past before Africa.
A partial skull of an ape, named Anadoluvius turkae, found in Cankiri, Turkey, could completely alter science’s understanding of human and ape evolution so far, according to a study.
This fossil, dated at 8.7 million years, calls into question the traditional belief that the ancestors of humans and apes originated exclusively in Africa.
Until recently, it was believed that the earliest hominids, encompassing humans, African apes, and their fossil ancestors, did not appear in Africa until about seven million years ago. However, this new finding raises the possibility that hominins may have first evolved in Europe before migrating to Africa.
Professor David Begun, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Toronto and co-senior author of the study, suggests that these in particular they could have evolved in western and central Europe, spending more than five million years there before spreading into the eastern Mediterranean and eventually reaching Africa. This could have been due to environmental changes and the decline of forests.
More evidence is needed to firmly support this hypothesis.
The skull of Anadoluvius turkae also gives a lot of information about the possible appearance and lifestyle of this ancient ape. It is thought to have weighed between 50 and 60 kilograms, possibly inhabiting a dry forest and spending most of its time on the ground.
This fossil was discovered in 2015, but these small, but really important details have recently been revealed in the magazine Communications Biology. Despite the excitement generated by this finding, some scientists take the opposite side, claiming that the current understanding of the origins of humans and apes is entirely true.
Professor Chris Stringer, research leader in human evolution at the Natural History Museum in London, argues that this finding does not drastically change the prevailing idea that hominins originated in Africa from Miocene ape ancestors.
With all this, it seems that more evidence is still needed to firmly support this hypothesis, so it will be crucial to find more fossils from between seven and eight million years ago, both in Europe and in Africa, to finally be right.