The new specimens have "a really distinct profile" and thus they are "something very different," said Meave Leakey, describing the study published online Wednesday in Nature.
What these new bones did match was an old fossil that Meave and her husband Richard helped find in 1972 that was baffling. That skull, called 1470, just did not fit with Homo erectus, the Leakeys contended. They said it was too flat-faced with a non-jutting jaw. They initially said it was well more than 2.5 million years old in a dating mistake that was later seized upon by creationists as evidence against evolution because it indicated how scientists can make dating mistakes. It turned out to be2 million years old.
For the past 40 years, the scientific question has been whether 1470 was a freak mutation of erectus or something new. For many years, the Leakeys have maintained that the male skull known as 1470 showed that there were more than one speciesof ancient hominids, but other scientists said it wasn't enough proof.
The Leakeys' new discoveries are more evidence that this earlier "enigmatic face" was a separate species, said study co-author Fred Spoor of the Max Planck Institute in Germany. The new bones were found between 2007 and 2009 about six miles (10 kilometers) away from the old site near the fossil-rich Lake Turkana region, Leakey said.
So that would make two species — erectus and the one represented by 1470.