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scientists respond to announcement of the discovery of a new species of human in Nature

Responses to the discovery of a tiny species of ancient human hailed as one of the most sensational finds of its type in decades.

Dr Robert Foley, Reader in Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Cambridge, said:

“This discovery is such a surprise – not many people had been thinking seriously about anything surviving that late except a modern human. We think of humans being a particular size – this is far smaller than anything we see today – and yet it survived for thousands of years.”

Prof Alan Cooper, Director, Henry Wellcome Ancient Biomolecules Centre, University of Oxford, said:

“This is a completely unexpected discovery which radically challenges our idea of how and when our human ancestors dispersed out of Africa. The fact that a form of Homo erectus can survive until as recently as 18,000 years ago is absolutely remarkable – it really is jaw-dropping stuff. From an ancient DNA point of view, these remains open the way for the genetic analysis of what our ancestors looked like over 1 million years ago. Until now, Homo erectus fossils have only been found dating from half to 1.5 million years old – and are completely fossilised, that is, made of rock. The Flores specimens are young enough to contain DNA, providing a remarkable opportunity that has got researchers salivating.”

Professor Leslie Aiello, Dept of Anthropology, University College London, said:

“This is a simply stunning fossil discovery that has provided a fascinating new piece in the puzzle of human evolutionary history. Let’s hope that more such material is forthcoming from Flores as well as from other time periods and areas of the world. Such unexpected discoveries are what make the study of human evolution one of the most interesting areas of modern science.”

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