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Multiple early human species?

ancient lower jaw/Yohannes Haile-Selassie

From ScienceDaily:

If ‘Lucy’ wasn’t alone, who else was in her neighborhood? Key fossil discoveries over the last few decades in Africa indicate that multiple early human ancestor species lived at the same time more than 3 million years ago. A new review of fossil evidence from the last few decades examines four identified hominin species that co-existed between 3.8 and 3.3 million years ago during the middle Pliocene. More. Paper. – Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Stephanie M. Melillo, and Denise F. Su. The Pliocene hominin diversity conundrum: Do more fossils mean less clarity? PNAS, June 6, 2016 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1521266113

aleoanthropologists face the challenges and debates that arise from small sample sizes, poorly preserved prehistoric specimens and lack of evidence for ecological diversity. Questions remain about the relationships of middle Pliocene hominins and what adaptive strategies might have allowed for the coexistence of multiple, closely related species.

Yes, exactly: I would like to know how we actually know they are “different species”? Has anyone worked this out? Or is it just something we assume? What does “species” mean anyway?

See also: Neanderthals built mysterious stone circles (We didn’t used to think they could do that, but it turns out they could.)

and Human evolution, the skinny

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