Three separate species, together in time

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April 02, 2020

The side of Drimolem in South Africa has yielded a remarkable array of fossils, it was reported in the journal Science on April 3. The fossil crania found represent two genera, Paranthropus robustus (designated DNH 152) and Homo erectus (DNH 134); they have been dated to a tightly constrained 2.04 to 1.95 million years ago. The paper is authored by Herries et al.

These two species were contemporaneous with a third species, found at nearby Malapa cave,  Australopithecus sediba.

The authors’ conclusions are significant:
Drimolen is the best dated early hominin site in South Africa. DNH 134 is the oldest and best preserved Early Pleistocene Homo cranium from South Africa. The DNH 134 Homo cranium has affinities with H. erectus and extends the species’ temporal range by ~200,000 to 150,000 years. DNH 134 being older than A. sediba complicates the likelihood of this species being ancestral to Homo in South Africa, as previously suggested. With the oldest occurrence of H. erectus at the southern tip of Africa, this argues against a suggested Asian origin for H. erectus. DNH 152 represents the oldest P. robustus cranium in South Africa. The Drimolen stone and bone tools are also the oldest from the region.

Read the full paper in Science.