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Large brains not required? Third and smallest skull of 'first Eurasians' reported in Science

This news release is also available in French.

The skull and jawbone of a small, lightly-built individual, discovered at an archeological site in Dmanisi, Georgia, may call into question the prevailing idea that larger brain size was behind the migration of human ancestors out of Africa. An international research team describes their find in the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The scientists found a petite new individual, with a small brain, thin brow ridge, short nose, and huge canine teeth, according to co-author David Lordkipanidze of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, in Tbilisi. This was the third specimen found at the site. By comparison, the other two skulls had room for substantially larger brains.

All three specimens are approximately 1.75 million years old, making them the largest collection of individuals from any one site older than around 800,000 years. Lordkipanidze and his colleagues have tentatively concluded that the three belong to the same species, Homo erectus, thought to be the first hominid species to leave Africa. The Dmanisi fossils most closely resemble the African version of Homo erectus, called Homo ergaster.

"We have now a very rich collection, of three skulls and three jawbones, which gives us a chance to study very properly this question [of how to classify the early hominids,] said Lordkipanidze. "These questions are often based on isolated finds, but here we have the chance to study a population."

The brain of the new Dmanisi specimen was probably around 600 cubic centimeters, while modern human brains are at least twice that much, according to Lordkipanidze. The other two specimen's brains were approximately 800 cubic centimeters.

Scientists have proposed that the evolution of larger brains was directly related to our ancestors' migrati
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Contact: Lisa Onaga
lonaga@aaas.org
202-326-7088
American Association for the Advancement of Science
4-Jul-2002


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