The first ever chimpanzee fossils were recently discovered in an area previously thought to be unsuitable for chimps. Fossils from human ancestor were also found nearby.
Although researchers have only found a few chimp teeth, the discovery could cause a shake-up in the theories of human evolution.
“We know today if you go to western and central Africa that humans and chimps live in similar and neighboring environments,” said Nina Jablonski, an anthropologist at the California Academy of Sciences. “This is the first evidence in the fossil record that they coexisted in the same place in the past.”
It had previously been thought that chimps never lived in the arid Rift Valley—they prefer more lush environments like the Congo and jungles of western Africa. For years scientists believed that early human ancestors left the jungles and moved east to the less wooded grasslands and that this move caused the evolutionary split between the human and chimp lines.
But now, with the discovery of ancient chimps and humans in the same area, evolutionists may have to rethink what caused humans to become humans.
“For many years people have used this kind of geographic split in environment as an explanation as an origin of humans and bipedalism,” coauthor Sally McBrearty of the University of Connecticut told LiveScience. “People have still retained this idea of a split geographic distribution of chimps and humans. This shows it certainly wasn’t true half a million years ago, and may not have been true before that. We need to look for another reason for the evolutionary split.”
Read the rest here.
So much for that theory...some other mechanism for the evolutionary separation of pan and homo will have to arise it seems (if this stands up for its identification).