Thursday, August 09, 2007

Habilis Isn't My Great Grand Daddy?

Some new fossil finds have once again tossed a wrench into the effort at tracing our exact origins. In this article. from the BBC, we now find out that Homo habilis existed for several hundred thousand years right along side of Homo erectus. It's always interesting when you find hominid fossils of different species living at the same time. It's hard to imagine. Here we are, and every one of us on earth is of the same species. There is less genetic variation between two Homo sapiens than there is between an African and Indian elephant or between a horse and a zebra.

But the really interesting part of this is that it had been thought by many that Homo habilis was the first in the line "Homo" and possibly led directly to Homo erectus. The fact that they lived at the same time makes this increasingly unlikely.

The problem with tracing our evolutionary roots is that there really isn't a whole lot to go on besides fossils. And only a tiny percentage of life ever ends up as a fossil and even a more minute amount is ever discovered. However, paleontologists have gotten very good at what they do best, and more and more are found every year. It will be interesting to see what the next great fossil find turns up in the story of origins.

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