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The Boston Globe

Science

Skull challenges understanding of evolution

Find blurs lines between early human species

The broad face, large teeth, and snout-like mouth of an exquisitely preserved 1.8-million-year-old skull, discovered near a medieval town at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, challenges our fundamental understanding of modern human origins, according to a detailed analysis of the fossil unveiled Thursday by an international team of scientists.

Under the prevailing view of early human evolution, we had a panoply of primitive predecessors, which scientists identified by examining fossil remnants with varied features: Homo erectus, Homo rudolfensis, Homo habilis. The new early human skull, unprecedented in how intact and old it is, blurs those boundaries, said the team, which includes a Harvard researcher. The skull’s mosaic of features challenges the idea that those previous specimens are each a different species.

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