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Out of Asia, not out of Africa
Our ancient ancestors may have come from Asia, not Africa, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Laurent Marivaux, from the University Montpellier II, and his colleagues have discovered remains of three 30m-year-old primate species from the anthropoid group in Balochistan, Pakistan.
"It was somewhat surprising and very exciting," he says.
The region has been closed to foreigners until recently because of tribal conflicts, leaving a huge gap in the primate fossil record from south Asia. Based on research from other parts of the continent, palaeontologists had assumed that this anthropoid group had been unable to live in south Asia around 30 million years ago because of its harsh climate.
Analysis of the new fossil finds, however, that our ancient ancestors may in fact have originated from South Asia.
"From a common Asian ancestor, anthropoids probably dispersed rapidly in Africa and evolved in relative isolation on both continents thereafter," explains Marivaux.