On the heels of a new study finding that the human body has undergone significant changes over time, a new paper by scientists from Princeton University and MIT shows that the first moments in history are very different from those of our ancestors.
The new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, looked at the evolution of the human species over the last 250,000 years and found that the earliest recorded moment was roughly 300,000 BCE.
“The earliest evidence of life in the fossil record, we have found, comes from a time about 300,00 years ago, at about the same time as the emergence of humans,” said James Delingpole, a professor of biology at Princeton who led the study.
The paper points to the idea that the fossil records we have of ancient people show us that the evolutionary rate at which life appeared in the Earth is much slower than the rate at a given time.
“It’s very possible that, at that time, humans were much more isolated from other life forms on the planet,” Delingope said.
“And it is possible that that isolated isolation allowed for the emergence and spread of more complex forms of life.”
“What we’re finding in our paper is that our evolutionary history was much more gradual than the average period of about 1.5 million years,” said senior author John Osterman, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton and a professor in the Princeton Center for the Study of Human Evolution.
Osterman said the paper could help scientists better understand how the human brain evolved and evolved.
“You could be thinking that, ‘Well, maybe humans evolved and then humans evolved,'” Ostermann said.
But it’s not that simple.
“This paper shows that we’ve gone through many, many, evolutionary transitions over the past 500,000 to 600,000 generations,” Ostermans study notes.
“But our evolution is not the same as that of our closest relatives in chimpanzees or monkeys.
Our evolutionary history has not been the same from one million to 1.2 million years ago.”
For example, humans are not descended from apes, as scientists thought at the time of their split from hominids.
In fact, the evolutionary history of humans has been very different.
“What’s fascinating about this paper is how, even though there are differences in the way our ancestors developed over time and our brains evolved, our evolutionary trajectory has not changed,” Oestermans said.
“And what we’ve shown is that the very earliest evolutionary transition to the brain is about 600,00 BCE.”
Ostermans paper also found that our first evolutionary moment, the moment when the human lineage diverged from the other apes, occurred around 600, 000 years ago.
This is also when the earliest known fossil record of human fossils was unearthed.
While the study found that human ancestors diverged around 600K years ago and lived in Africa, Ostermons paper also showed that the oldest known human fossils were unearthed in a site in Ethiopia about 1,600,000 BC.
Oestermons study shows that these human fossils, which date back to about 600K BCE, are the oldest evidence of human evolution.
They have been dated to a time when there was a population of about 250,00 people.
But they also found evidence of an even older, much older, population that lived in what is now South Africa.
That ancient population, the “Mongoose people,” lived in the Amazon rainforest until about 2,500,000 B.C., Osterms paper notes.
This ancient population also seems to have evolved the capacity to move around the planet, moving through the forests and across rivers and across oceans, Oestermens paper notes, as well as the ability to hunt and gather food.
“So we think these things were adaptive,” Osters said.
Scientists don’t yet know how long ago these people lived and how they interacted with other lifeforms on Earth.
However, Osters and Delingopes research indicates that they probably lived around 300,,000 or so years ago at the earliest.
Osters, Oostermans, and other researchers are looking at fossils to see if they can find other evidence that could help reconstruct the early history of humanity.
“We want to learn what the human ancestor did in terms of how they got from one place to another, and what the environment was like, how they lived and died, and how we got from where we are today to where we were millions of years ago,” Osters said.