Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Humans left Asia for Africa, then returned

Three newly discovered primate species that lived 30 million years ago suggest that our ancestors originated in Asia not Africa, challenging the well-known "Out of Africa" theory of human evolution.

But it could be something a bit more complicated, such as "Out of Asia into Africa and Back to Asia", since some researchers now think Asian primates journeyed to Africa, where they evolved into humans, who then travelled both in and out of Africa.

According to a study published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, numerous fossil teeth found in the Bugti Hills of central Pakistan were from three new anthropoids.

Anthropoids are the group scientists believe were our world-travelling animal cousins, the primates from which humans evolved.

"The Oligocene period [30 to 25 million years ago] in south Asia was so far totally undocumented palaeontologically," says lead author Dr Laurent Marivaux.

"So, it is not surprising that the discovery of fossilised animals from this period is totally new for science, and that they [may] change or modify substantially our previous view on mammal evolution, notably here, the evolutionary history of anthropoid primates.

"The evolutionary history of these old anthropoid lineages represents the beginnings of the evolutionary history of humans."

Story here.

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