New fossils confirm diverse species at the root of our lineage

At least three species of Homo coexisted in Africa nearly 2 million years ago

Species: 
Homo rudolfensis

A new discovery of a fossil cranium and two jawbones—both 2 million years old—lead researchers to confirm that Homo rudolfensis is a distinct species. The first Homo rudolfensis skull was found in northern Kenya in 1972. The newly discovered fossil face is flat, as in the original skull. The partial jawbones look similar to the skull found in 1972 but enlarge the known variation in the skull and teeth of Homo rudolfensis. Along with fossils of Homo habilis and Homo erectus, these new specimens support the existence of multiple species of Homo in eastern Africa between about 2.0 and 1.7 million years ago.

Image of KNM-ER 1470, skull, 3/4 view
Image of <i>Homo rudolfensis</i> face illustration, front view

Meave G. Leakey, Fred Spoor, M. Christopher Dean, Craig S. Feibel, Susan C. Antón, Christopher Kiarie, Louise N. Leakey. (2012) New fossils from Koobi Fora in northern Kenya confirm taxonomic diversity in early Homo. Nature 488, 201–204.