Does a Newly Discovered Skull Fossil Prove a New Human Species?

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Aug. 9 2012 6:07 PM

Does a Newly Discovered Skull Fossil Prove a New Human Species?

Does the human family tree have brand-new branch or just a weird twig on an old one?

Newly discovered fossils may verify the hotly debated theory that more than one humanoid ancestor coexisted at the dawn of man. 

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Paleontologists have unearthed the partial skull in Kenya they claim bears a family resemblance to another ancient—and controversial—fossil find. That first skull, discovered in 1972 and dubbed "KNM-ER 1470," has been paleoanthropology's square peg, as its features don't fit nicely into the Homo erectus family of hominids, commonly thought to be the only OG of our Homo genus.

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A new skull fossil discovered in Kenya suggests a separate branch of our human family tree.

Photo by TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images

Some believe KNM-ER 1470 represents a distinct, coexistent branch of human evolution. The paleontologists who discovered the new skull claim their new findings closely resemble KNM-ER 1470's unusual “flat faced” appearance, supporting the multiple-ancestor theory. But with little more to go on than two sets of skull fragments, some researchers say this odd-looking pair is simply an example of physical diversity within Homo erectus.

In one big family that features the likes of Angelina Jolie and Carrot Top, maybe we do just come in all shapes and sizes.