Around six million years ago, humans left the trees and spread onto the African savannah where they met a new challenge. As they expanded and the population grew, they eventually met with the sea. It was too far to swim or walk across and for years scientists have wondered how they crossed this barrier. New evidence on the coast of Egypt has helped us to understand how this happened.
Homo rudolphensis lived about 1.9 million years ago and was a great migrator. He is considered to be the ancestor to our lineage. At this time in history, the Nile river was much higher and flooded the nearby lands, creating a water barrier between Eastern Egypt and nearby Israel. But how did they cross the water? Ideas of boats have been suggested, but as these hominins barely had tools, this seemed like too much of a stretch. However, new evidence suggests that in this stage of evolution, humans had wings.
This could explain how ancient peoples travelled across to Israel and the European continent. The frequent migration and constant erratic flooding of the African continent at the time meant that humans with the ability to cross unexpected bodies of water found better sources of food and survived better than their terrestrial cousins. As the wings grew, they could travel further and faster and eventually were able to cross great rivers and seas, much like modern day birds.
As these soft materials decay faster than bones, which have a higher inorganic content, they were much harder to find in the fossil record. This evidence fits so well into the evolutionary puzzle, despite how bizarre it may seem.
Findings were based on the Santa Claudia site on the shores of Egypt, where layers from multiple generations of people were found. Dating from around 2 million years ago to only 250,000 years ago, well into human history, there is a lot of new knowledge to be gained from this site. Based on carbon dating and other relative dating methods, researchers concluded that this airborne migration would happen yearly, probably finishing around the end of what we now call December. Further study is ongoing to see if H. rudolphensis and our more recent ancestors can be found on the other shore, in Israel.
So if these ancient humans had wings, what happened to ours? It seems as we progressed in our tool making, we no longer had the need for this high cost mode of transport and could rely on rafts or boats to cross bodies of water. The wings grew smaller and smaller until they were vestigial lumps or nothing at all. Some people still have small remainders – if you arch your back, sometimes your shoulder blades stick out more than other people’s. These are the tiny lumps of wing cartilage that remain.
**DISCLAIMER: This was an article written for April Fool’s Day, 2018. The above article was intended for entertainment purposes only and may include completely fabricated facts.**