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Fossil discovery complicates Homo sapiens' family tree (+video)

A team led by renowned paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey has discovered new fossils that they say suggests that our apelike ancestors shared their habitat with other hominid species. 

My Life In Science: An Evening with 'Meave Leakey' at ADU
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Our family tree may have sprouted some long-lost branches going back nearly 2 million years. A famous paleontology family has found fossils that they think confirm their theory that there are two additional pre-human species besides the one that eventually led to modern humans.

A team led by Meave Leakey, daughter-in-law of famed scientist Louis Leakey, found facial bones from one creature and jawbones from two others in Kenya. That led the researchers to conclude that man's early ancestor had plenty of human-like company from other species.

These would not be Homo erectus, believed to be our direct ancestor. They would be more like very distant cousins, who when you go back even longer in time, shared an ancient common ancestor, one scientist said.

But other experts in human evolution are not convinced by what they say is a leap to large conclusions based on limited evidence. It is the continuation of a long-running squabble in anthropology about the earliest members of our own genus, or class, called Homo —an increasingly messy family history. And much of it stems from a controversial discovery that the Leakeys made 40 years ago.

In their new findings, the Leakey team says that none of their newest fossil discoveries match erectus, so they had to be from another flat-faced relatively large species with big teeth.

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