Skull ‘MRD’


  • 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.