Skull ‘MRD’

Context

  • A “remarkably complete” 3.8-million-year-old skull of an early human has been unearthed in Ethiopia, a discovery that has the potential to alter our understanding of human evolution.

About the Skull

  • The skull, known as MRD, was discovered not far from the younger Lucy — the ancient ancestor of modern humans — and shows that the two species may have co-existed for about 100,000 years.
  • This skull is one of the most complete fossils of hominids more than 3 million years old.
  • MRD belongs to the species Australopithecus anamensis.

Other such skulls

  • Toumai (of the species Sahelanthropus tchadensis) is around 7 million years old and is considered by some palaeontologists to be the first representative of the human lineage.
  • It was discovered in Chad in 2001.
  • Ardi (for Ardipithecus ramidus, another species of hominid) was found in Ethiopia in 1994 and is believed to be around 4.5 million years old.
  • And Lucy, the famous Australopithecus afarensis, was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 and is 3.2 million years old.
  • Australopithecus afarensis is one of the longest-lived and most studied early human species.

About MRD

  • The 3.2-million-year-old Lucy belonged to a species of hominins (which include humans and their ancestors) called Australopithecus afarensis.
  • The newly investigated skull belongs to the older species Australopithecus anamensis.
  • Previously, it was thought that the two species never coexisted, and that the older species gradually morphed into Lucy’s species.
  • The new research indicates that they did coexist, for some 100,000 years. The dating suggests that MRD’s species could have coexisted with Lucy’s because of a “speciation event”.
  • Besides identifying the species as Australopithecus anamensis, they determined the age of the fossil to be 3.8 million years by dating minerals in layers of volcanic rocks near the site.

Source:TH