H. erectus and H. habilis were neighbors?

A new report in Nature shows us why the scientific study of evolution is so fascinating. The New York Times today has an article highlighting some recent findings from Kenya. Apparently, Homo habilis and Homo erectus coexisted in east Africa about 1.5 million years ago:

Scientists who dated and analyzed the specimens — a 1.44-million-year-old Homo habilis and a 1.55-million-year-old Homo erectus found in 2000 — said their findings challenged the conventional view that these species evolved one after the other. Instead, they apparently lived side by side in eastern Africa for almost half a million years.

If this interpretation is correct, the early evolution of the genus Homo is left even more shrouded in mystery than before. It means that both habilis and erectus must have originated from a common ancestor between two million and three million years ago, a time when fossil hunters had drawn a virtual blank.

Although the findings do not change the relationship of Homo erectus as a direct ancestor of Homo sapiens, scientists said, the surprisingly diminutive erectus skull implies that this species was not as humanlike as once thought.

All the time we get to put in new pieces of the puzzle, only to learn that the puzzle gets even bigger.

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