Illustration of the four fossil primates Afrotarsius (top left), Karanesia (top right), Biretia (bottom left) and Talahpithecus (bottom right). Credit: Mark A. Klinger (Carnegie Museum of Natural History)
Reading aloud Humans may not come from Africa: According to an international team of researchers, newly discovered fossils of human-like primates challenge the common out-of-Africa hypothesis that human ancestry evolved in Africa and then shifted from one to another Continents distributed. The now found remains of four primate species that lived in Libya 39 million years ago are the oldest known primate finds in Africa - fossil evidence of how their development progressed up to that point is missing. Therefore, the researchers suspect that the primates from another continent may have immigrated to Africa. Here then the further development to the modern humans would have taken place. The origin of the higher primates, which includes monkeys, apes, and humans themselves, has long been a matter of debate among paleontologists. Up to now, the out-of-Africa theory has been widely accepted as an explanatory approach: Humans originated in Africa and spread throughout the world from there. But some very ancient fossil finds of primates in Asia contradict this theory and suggest an Asian origin of human ancestors. The advocates of this "out-of-Asia" theory suggest that some of our early ancestors came from Asia and immigrated to Africa to evolve into, among other things, human beings.

The new finds from Libya amaze the researchers led by Jean-Jacques Jaeger of the French Université de Poitiers, above all, through their biodiversity: They belong to three different primate families who lived in North Africa at the same time. This biodiversity would have evolved over 39 million years ago through evolution. But there is no fossil evidence for this line of origin. The primate species appear suddenly in Africa, the researchers say. There are two possible explanations for this: Either there is a striking gap in African fossil history or the primates developed on another continent and only then migrated to Africa. However, paleontologists consider the former to be unlikely, as the archaeological sites of North Africa are well documented in the relevant period and contain no fossils suggesting such primate evolution. Therefore, the researchers prefer to assume that the roots of human development can be found in Asia.

Jean-Jacques Jaeger (Université de Poitiers, Poitiers) et al .: Nature, vol. 467, no. 7319, pp. 1095-1098, online pre-publication, doi: 10.1038 / nature09425 dapd / Meike Simann


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