Announced in May in Nature, the newly named Australopithecus deyiremeda
lived between 3.3 million and 3.5 million years ago — more than 500,000 years before the first members of the Homo genus but as little as 100,000 years before Lucy, a member of A. afarensis
Fossils from another hominin contemporary — Kenyanthropus platyops — were found in 1999 a few hundred miles to the south, in Kenya. A fourth hominin from the same period, A. bahrelghazali, was found in 1995 in Chad, more than a thousand miles to the west, although some researchers dispute the idea that all the fossils represent separate species.
But A. deyiremeda and its neighbors do indicate that hominins with ape-size brains had developed successful adaptations to different environments, says the study’s lead author Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a paleoanthropologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Like many of his colleagues, Haile-Selassie believes the fossils come from different species; which one of them evolved into our genus is a question that can only be answered through more discoveries.