An interdisciplinary and multinational team of archaeologists, anthropologists and geneticists in Siberia has announced the sensational discovery of a new hominid species that interfered with our own species, Homo sapiens, which leaves genetic traces to be seen in living humans today spans Ukraine and Russia and down through Mongolia, Korea and China. The most shocking aspect of the finding is that this species had a visible tail, an archaic remnant of its evolution from primates millions of years ago.
The discovery was announced by British paleo-anthropologist John Bennett on April 1, saying: "This could be the most significant discovery of human origin research for 100 years!"
Scientists found bones in depth in a hole in Siberia last April, including parts of the pelvic bone, tailbone, femur and lower jaw fragment. They first believed the fossils belonged to early modern people, dating back about 50,000 years, since Homo sapiens are known to have inhabited the same area around that time. However, DNA analysis revealed that the bones belonged to a distinct species which has now been named Homo apriliensis after the month in which it was first found.
An illustration depicting a human being with a tail (public domain)
Parents with a tail
The new species showed also traces of DNA from Denisovans and Homo sapiens, suggesting that the three species had blown at some point.
But the most shocking aspect of the discovery is that experts have stated that Homo apriliensis would have had a small visible tail, an example of vestigiality where a species carries features that have lost all or most of their original function through evolution.
"Although structures called vestigial often seem inoperative, a vestigial structure like a tail can still retain minor functions or develop less new ones," Dr. Dr. Bennett.
Modern people have many vestigial features such as wisdom teeth and the supplement. The coccyx or tail bone is also an example of vestigiality and is the rest of a lost tail.
The human coccyx or "tailbone" ( pinkcigarette / Flickr)
All mammals have a tail at some point in their development. In humans, embryos have a tail for about four weeks, measuring about one sixth of the size of the embryo. As the embryo develops into a fetus, the tail of the growing body is absorbed, but the coccyx or tailbone remains. The neck bone has lost its original function in Homo sapiens to help balance and mobility, although it still serves some secondary functions, such as. Being an attachment site for muscles.
Human embryos have tails for approx. 4 weeks in the development process public domain )
But in the case of Homo apriliensis the developmental fetus would have retained a small tail that radiated externally and remained visible after birth. Scientists have called it a vestigial function, as they do not believe the tail served a role in balance or mobility, given its short length.
"This is the first time ever that an archaic hominid species has been found with an outer tail. It is unprecedented and completely changes what we know about human development," said Mr Bennett.
Research on the new species is still in the very early stages, but the interdisciplinary team is planning to release their next phase of the results, which means determining how recently the species expired on April 1 next year.
Top image: Prehistoric hominid species (Andrea Izzotti / Adobe Stock).
Af Joanna Gillan