Human evolutionary beginnings more complex than previously thought

Human evolutionary beginnings more complex than previously thought

The quest to explain how modern humans emerged from the primordial slime has taken a new turn.

The place of humans and other backboned animals in the tree of life has been questioned by Flinders University researchers.

Their investigation could overturn widely held beliefs that almost all vertebrates (backboned animals) are descended from placoderms (archaic armoured jawed fish).

Their paper brings light to debates that have been ongoing within the palaeontological community for some time.

Flinders University palaeontology researcher Benedict King said the new model used by the team to reshape the tree of life combines traditional anatomical features along with other sources of information, such as the geological ages of recent fossil discoveries in China.

“Our study suggests that no particular group of known jawed vertebrates is ancestral to the others,” he said.

“Rather, the true jawed vertebrate ancestor probably combined features of bony fish (such as carp), cartilaginous fish (sharks and rays) and placoderms – in much the same way that the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees was neither human nor chimp but a unique amalgam of both.”

Two researchers at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleonanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences were collaborators in the Flinders study.

You can read more about the research team’s findings here. Story credit: Flinders University newsroom.

Extending our knowledge of the natural world is only possible if we support Australia’s universities. To keep Australia clever, please sign the petition below.