Study of fossil teeth suggests missing earlier human ancestor

10/22/2013 | Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)

A study of teeth in European, African and Asian fossils, and modern humans, suggests that the last common ancestor between humans and Neanderthals lived earlier than previously thought. "What we realized is that none of the species we have in the fossil record is similar to that ancestor morphology that we calculated as the most likely one. We think that we didn't find it because we actually don't have this ancestor in the fossil record," said George Washington University anthropologist Aida Gomez-Robles, the lead author of the study published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The missing ancestor's teeth would be more like those of Homo ergaster, which lived in Africa between 1.3 million and 1.8 million years ago, the study indicates.

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