UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In 2016, researchers in the Afar region of Ethiopia discovered a nearly complete cranium of an early human ancestor, Australopithecus anamensis, that dates to 3.8 million years ago. According to the international team of researchers, that fossil, designated MRD-VP-1/1, has revealed that A. anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis coexisted for about 100,000 years rather than at separate time periods as previously thought.
The digital reconstruction of the fossil that facilitated its analysis was initiated at Penn State. The results appear today (Aug. 29) in two papers in Nature.
"This is a game changer in our understanding of human evolution during the Pliocene (5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago)," said Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator, Cleveland Museum of Natural History and adjunct professor, Case Western Reserve University.
Led by Haile-Selassie, paleoanthropologists conducted extensive analyses of MRD, and geologists determined the age and context of the fossil.