Australopithecus Afarensis found in Ongata Rongai

March 25, 2016

Those of us who are avid fans of history would agree that Australopithecus Afarensis is one of the most well studied early human species. Paleontologists have found Australopithecus afarensis fossils in Kenya that suggest that the early hominin species lived much farther east than previously believed. In their report published in the Journal of Human Evolution, they detail the fossilised teeth and forearm bones from an adult male and two infant A.afarensis discovered in an exposure eroded by the Kantis River in Ongata Rongai. “So far, all other Australopithecus afarensis fossils had been identified from the center of the Rift Valley,” explained Masato Nakatsukasa of Kyoto University. “A previous Australopithecus bahrelghazali discovery in Chad confirmed that our hominid ancestor’s distribution covered central Africa, but this was the first time an Australopithecus fossil has been found east of the Rift Valley. This has important implications for what we understand about our ancestor’s distribution range, namely that Australopithecus could have covered a much greater area by this age.” Thanks to the fossil record available, which includes specimens from over 300 individuals, paleontologists estimate the species lived between 3.85 million and 2.95 million years ago, a 900,000 year period four times longer than modern humans have existed.“The Kantis hominin specimens are the first clear evidence of this species in Kenya.”According to the team, the Kantis region was humid, but had a plain-like environment with fewer trees compared to other sites in the Great Rift Valley where Australopithecus afarensis fossils had previously appeared. Stable isotope analysis has shown that the Kantis area was humid with a plain-like environment and fewer trees than the areas where A. afarensis fossils have previously been found. “The hominid must have discovered suitable habitats in the Kenyan highlands,” says Nakatsukasa. “

Australopithecus fossils
Australopithecus fossils

It seems that A. afarensis was good at adapting to varying environments.” “Australopithecus afarensis was previously known from northern Ethiopia to northern Tanzania,” the researchers said. “According to available records, the presence of Ausralopithecus afarensis in the Turkana basin of Kenya is contested.”Ausralopithecus afarensis was first discovered in 1974, with the famous ‘Lucy’ fossil, the species has played a ground breaking part in developing our understanding of human evolution. Ausralopithecus afarensis exhibited characteristics of both humans and apes. Face and brain case were very much reminiscent of primates, as were their long, curved arms which would have allowed them to climb trees with ease.On the other hand, Ausralopithecus afarensis small canine teeth, and body which stood on two legs were very similar to other early humans.Significantly, the Kantis region where the latest remains were unearthed would have been different to environments usually assumed to have been the domain of Ausralopithecus afarensis. Stable isotope analysis of the surrounding area revealed that three million years ago Kantis was a humid, plain like environment with markedly fewer trees than the other sites where evidence of Ausralopithecus afarensis has been discovered.“The hominid must have discovered suitable habitats in the Kenyan highlands. It seems that Ausralopithecus afarensis was good at adapting to varying environments,” Nakatsukasa noted.Nakatsukasa and Emma Mbua of Mount Kenya University findings force a reevaluation of the geographic distribution of some of our oldest ancestors, while also revealing Ausralopithecus afarensis was much more adaptable than previously thought.

Contador Harrison