London, June 2 (ANI): Scientists have found a 12-million-year-old fossil hominid in Spain, which suggests that millions of years before early humans evolved in Africa, their ancestors may have lived in Europe.
According to a report in New Scientist, the fossil, named Anoiapithecus brevirostris by Salvador Moya-Sola of the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology in Barcelona, Spain, and his colleagues, dates from a period of human evolution for which the record is very thin.
While only the animal's face, jaw and teeth survive, their shape places it within the African hominid lineage that gave rise to gorillas, chimps and humans.
However, it also has features of a related group called kenyapithecins.
Moya-Sola said that A. brevirostris and some similar-looking kenyapithecins lived in Europe shortly after the afrohominid and kenyapithecin lineages split, and so that the divergence itself may have happened there.
If he is right, our hominid ancestors lived in Europe and only later migrated to Africa, where modern humans evolved.
This "into Africa" scenario is likely to be controversial.
Critics argue that discoveries like Moya-Sola's are more likely to reflect the quality of the fossil records in Africa and Europe than offer clues to the actual origins of hominids.
Jay Kelley, a palaeobiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, points out that the fossil record from the time in question is much better in Europe than in Africa.
"If you've got a record on one continent but not the other, naturally you're going to see origins of the group from the continent where you've got the record," he said. (ANI)