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Humans left Asia for Africa, then returned

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  • Ian Pitchford
    Humans left Asia for Africa, then returned Jennifer Viegas Discovery News Wednesday, 1 June 2005 Three newly discovered primate species that lived 30 million
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2005
      Humans left Asia for Africa, then returned
      Jennifer Viegas
      Discovery News
      Wednesday, 1 June 2005

      Three newly discovered primate species that lived 30 million
      years ago suggest that our ancestors originated in Asia not
      Africa, challenging the well-known "Out of Africa" theory of
      human evolution.

      But it could be something a bit more complicated, such as "Out
      of Asia into Africa and Back to Asia", since some researchers
      now think Asian primates journeyed to Africa, where they evolved
      into humans, who then travelled both in and out of Africa.

      According to a study published in the latest Proceedings of the
      National Academy of Sciences, numerous fossil teeth found in the
      Bugti Hills of central Pakistan were from three new anthropoids.

      Anthropoids are the group scientists believe were our
      world-travelling animal cousins, the primates from which humans

      "The Oligocene period [30 to 25 million years ago] in south Asia
      was so far totally undocumented palaeontologically," says lead
      author Dr Laurent Marivaux.

      "So, it is not surprising that the discovery of fossilised
      animals from this period is totally new for science, and that
      they [may] change or modify substantially our previous view on
      mammal evolution, notably here, the evolutionary history of
      anthropoid primates.

      "The evolutionary history of these old anthropoid lineages
      represents the beginnings of the evolutionary history of

      Marivaux and his team named the new anthropoids Bugtipithecus
      inexpectans, Phileosimias kamali and Phileosimias brahuiorum.
      They were tiny and somewhat similar to today's lemurs, says
      Marivaux, a palaeontologist at the Institute of Evolutionary
      Science at Montpellier II University in France.

      Their small, underdeveloped teeth reveal the primates probably
      ate insects and fruit. Climate records for this period suggest
      that the animals lived in a warm, humid tropical rainforest.

      Fossil remains for other animals indicate the primates shared
      the Asian rainforest with more than 20 different species of
      rodents, bats, carnivores, deer-like animals, pigs, a rhino-like
      creature, called baluchitherium, and other primates.

      Remains for later primates similar to the new anthropoids have
      previously been found in China, Burma and Thailand. The newly
      excavated teeth now indicate that anthropoids had a larger range
      in Asia than thought, since the animals made their way to

      More evidence

      Dr Christopher Beard, curator and head of the Section of
      Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural
      History in Pittsburgh, says he generally agrees with the new

      "Together, the fossil anthropoid primates that are known from
      China, Thailand, Myanmar and now Pakistan constitute an
      impressive amount of data indicating that the 'higher primate'
      lineage that today includes all monkeys, apes, and humans must
      have originated in Asia, not in Africa as earlier scientists
      believed," Beard says.

      "[The new evidence indicates] early members of this [anthropoid
      Asian group] made its way to Africa, where they continued to
      evolve and diversify, eventually giving rise to living monkeys,
      apes and humans."

      Christopher Wills, professor of biological sciences at the
      University of California, San Diego, agrees it was likely that
      early anthropoid evolution did not just occur in Africa.

      Wills says the evolution probably included "substantial
      migrations over long distances, in and out of Africa perhaps".

      Beard and Marivaux say the early anthropoids that stayed in Asia
      continued to evolve too, but not in a direction that led to apes
      and humans.

      Most experts say humans only emerged in Africa.


      Ian Pitchford PhD CBiol MIBiol
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