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Hominid News Updates  -  New human fossil discoveries and evidences

                 

Hominid News Updates
New human fossil discoveries and evidences   

'Lucy's baby' found in Ethiopia
The 3.3-million-year-old fossilised remains of a human-like child have been unearthed in Ethiopia's Dikika region.
The female Australopithecus afarensis bones are from the same species as an adult skeleton found in 1974 which was
nicknamed "Lucy". Scientists are thrilled with the find, reported in the journal Nature.
They believe the near-complete remains offer a remarkable opportunity to study growth and development in an important
extinct human ancestor. Juvenile Australopithecus afarensis remains are vanishingly rare.
The skeleton was first identified in 2000, locked inside a block of sandstone. It has taken five years of painstaking work
to free the bones....The "Lucy" skeleton, discovered in Hadar, Ethiopia, in 1974 belongs to the same species as the
Dikika girl. For more than 20 years it was the oldest human ancestor known to science.

Image:Ancient Elephant
At one time they fed on the Mastodon (giving them almost unlimited
supplies of food). The last Mastodon died around 10,000 years ago.
In 2003, the skeletal remains of this Mastodon where discovered
200 miles South of the California/Mexico border. Photos were strictly
forbidden.However, because of my humanitarian efforts in Mexico,
and because of my relationship with the Mexican government, I was
allowed to take this photo.
This 10 - 30,000 year-old skeleton eventually ended up at the
Museum of Anthropology in La Paz, Baja California, Mexico.

'First west Europe tooth' found
Scientists in Spain say that they have found a tooth from a distant
human ancestor that is more than one million years old.
The tooth, a pre-molar, was discovered on Wednesday at the Atapuerca site in northern Spain's Burgos Province. It represented western Europe's "oldest human fossil remain", a statement from the Atapuerca Foundation said. The foundation said it was awaiting final results before publishing its
findings in a scientific journal. Several caves containing evidence of prehistoric human occupation have been found in Atapuerca.
In 1994 fossilised remains called Homo antecessor (Pioneer Man) - believed to date back 800,000 years - were
unearthed there. Scientists had previously thought that Homo heidelbergensis, dating back 600,000 years, were
Europe's oldest inhabitants. Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro, co-director of research at the site, said that the newly discovered tooth could be as much as 1.2 million years old.

Ancestors had leg-up to trees
The ancestors of humans, apes and monkeys may have taken to the trees because of their small body size.
Scientists have long wondered why early primates inhabited forest canopies, given that climbing appears to consume
more energy than walking.
US researchers studied primates climbing and walking on treadmills.
They say there was no difference in energy consumption for small primates, giving clues to how their ancestors entered
the trees 65 million years ago.

Neanderthals were cannibals
Gory evidence uncovered in France reveals that the early humans in the region ate one another. Cheek muscles from
children were filleted out, tendons were sliced and skulls were cracked to remove brains....Excavations at the cave at
Moula-Guercy, Ardeche, yielded 78 Neanderthal bones, from at least six individuals who lived 100,000 years ago.
Remnants of two adults, two 15 or 16 year-olds, and two six or seven year-olds were dug up as well as nearly 400
pieces of animal bone.
There have been hints of Neanderthal cannibalism at other sites before but this is the by far the clearest evidence
and the first in Europe.

Neanderthals 'mated with modern humans'
A hybrid skeleton showing features of both Neanderthal and early modern humans has been discovered, challenging the
theory that our ancestors drove Neanderthals to extinction. The skeleton of a young boy was found in Portugal.
Scientists say it shows for the first time that Neanderthals, who became extinct tens of thousands of years ago, mated
with early members of our own species. The scientists believe that the offspring of the interbreeding could be ancestors
of modern man.....The skeleton, thought to be that of a four-year-old boy, was found when an archaeologist explored a
rabbit hole near the coast north of Lisbon. The child had been given a ritual burial, with red ochre and pierced shells.
He had the pronounced chin and teeth of modern humans, but his sturdy limbs were more characteristic of the
Neanderthals.
The scientists believe that raises the possibility that people alive today could have some genes inherited from
Neanderthal ancestors.

Neanderthals, humans linked
Washington - A 40 000-year-old human skull found in Romania shows that early Europeans shared modern and
Neanderthal traits, suggesting the two species may have mixed, according to research released on Monday.
The skull fragments - which researchers say are the earliest modern human remains found in Europe - were discovered
in a cave in southwestern Romania, according to the research to be published this week in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.
The reconstructed cranium, named Oase 2, has the same proportions as modern human skulls and shares a number of
non-Neanderthal features. But it also has a flat forehead and the largest cheek teeth so far known for a modern human.
"Such differences raise important questions about the evolutionary history of modern humans," said one of the lead
researchers, Joao Zilhao of University of Bristol. This could result from an "evolutionary reversal" Zilhao said in a
statement.
"They could also reflect a mixture with Neanderthal population as modern humans spread through western Eurasia,"
he added.
Such a mixture "would have resulted in both archaic traits retained from the Neanderthals and unique combinations of
traits resulting in the blending of previously divergent gene pools," he said.
The skull fragments were found during an excavation project in Pestera cu Oase (the Cave with Bones) led by Zilhao
and Erik Trinkaus of Washington University between 2003 and 2005. The remains "represent our best evidence of what
the modern humans who first dispersed into Europe looked like," read the statement. Although the researchers caution
that larger samples are needed, the fossils are "a major addition" to evidence "indicating significant levels of biological
and cultural interaction between modern humans" and the Neanderthals they met "as they spread from Africa into
Eurasia".
The Neanderthals were the closest evolutionary cousins to modern humans, or Homo sapiens, before they died out.
They were smaller than modern humans but had larger brains.
Neanderthals lived in Europe, parts of Central Asia and the Middle East for some 170 000 years until they inexplicably
disappeared around 28 000-30 000 years ago.
One hypothesis is that the Neanderthals were destroyed by Homo sapiens. Another is that the two hominids were so
similar that they interbred.
That theory was apparently discounted by two studies in November based on comparison of a small reconstructed
sequence of Neanderthal DNA, that showed the two species going separate genetic ways some 500 000 years ago,
with little or no interbreeding.
AFP

Report Connects Red Hair to Neanderthals
The image of Neanderthals may be in need of a makeover: scientists say at least some of these extinct hominids could
have had fair skin and red hair.
Researchers studying the DNA of Neanderthals found a mutation in two individuals that can affect skin and hair pigmen-
tation, they reported in Thursday's online issue of the journal Science.
The mutation reduces the function of a gene known as MC1R. In modern humans, when a slightly different mutation
reduces the function of that gene the result is red hair and fair skin, according to the team led by Holger Roempler of
Harvard University and the University of Leipzig, Germany; Carles Lalueza-Fox of the University of Barcelona, Spain
and Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.
Neanderthals lived in Europe and Asia about 400,000 years ago. They were replaced by early modern humans.
Researchers have long debated whether the two groups mixed together, though most doubt it. The last evidence for
Neanderthals dates from at least 24,000 years ago.
Scientists are working to analyze Neanderthal DNA -- the blueprint of life -- taken from ancient remains. They hope it
will help them better understand these ancient people. As part of this process, last year researchers discovered that
Neanderthals also had the gene known to influence speech in modern humans.
The two fossils studied in the hair-color research were found in Italy and Spain.

Boost for 'Out of Africa' theory
Paris - Scientists say 20 years after it was popularised, the "Out of Africa" theory, which says that modern humans
originally came from Africa before spreading out in a global conquest, has received an emphatic boost.
Rival theories about the rise of Homo sapiens sapiens, as anatomically modern man is called, say humans either
came from a single point in Africa or among different populations in different parts around the world, who evolved
independently from a forebear, Homo erectus.
The "Out of Africa" scenario has been underpinned since 1987 by genetic studies based mainly on the rate of
mutations in mitochondrial DNA, a cell material inherited from the maternal line of ancestry.
The "multiple origins" school, meanwhile, points out that human skulls from around the world have clearly different
characteristics, and argues that this proves our species evolved in slightly different forms more or less simultaneously.
In a study released by the British journal Nature, University of Cambridge researchers combined both techniques.
Analysis of genetic diversity among human populations is backed by evidence from 4 500 male skulls from around
the world, demonstrating we all came from a single area in Africa, the authors say. Populations were reduced by
war, disease
They found that the farther a population is from Africa, the smaller the genetic diversity.
This was the result of a "bottleneck," or interbreeding among a smaller gene pool that occurred when migrating
populations were temporarily reduced by war, disease or some other catastrophe.
The loss in genetic diversity was mirrored by a corresponding loss in diversity among skull characteristics.
Applying a benchmark of characteristics, they found that the most varied skulls were from southeastern Africa -
and the diversity progressively declined the farther the skull was from Africa.
Lead researcher Andrea Manica of the university's Department of Zoology said: "We've combined our genetic data
with new measurements of a large sample of skulls to show definitively that modern humans originated from a single
area in sub-Saharan Africa."
In 2000, Swedish research based on the molecular clock estimated that H. sapiens sapiens emerged about 121 500 to
221 500 years ago, and the migration out of Africa was about 52 000 years ago, give or take 27 500 years.
AFP

Modern man's true origin?
Chicago - For more than 150 years, a debate has raged over the origins of modern man.
The main body of scientific thought says modern humans migrated from Africa and then overwhelmed their more
primitive European counterparts, the heavy-browed Neanderthals, or inter-bred with them.
But growing credence is being given to the theory that homo sapiens evolved from the Neanderthals, who
mysteriously died out some 28 000 years ago.
A new study to be published on Wednesday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says evidence of
huge climate change supports that theory.
Harsh weather
Eugene Morin, an anthropology professor at Laval University in Quebec, argues that an extended period of harsh weather
would have made Western Europe unwelcoming to new migrants at the time when the tools and cave drawings of modern
man began to appear.
He says it is much more likely that Neanderthals evolved as a result of these climate changes which drastically reduced
the diversity and availability of animals to hunt.
"If the Neanderthals were already having trouble how would it have been possible for another population to survive?"
he argued.
"Even if they had a selective advantage they would still be facing the climatic conditions ... and would be competing with
Neanderthals which would have been locally adapted."
Morin examined the animal bones discovered at a rich archaeological site in Saint-Cesaire, France and determined that
the consumption of reindeer increased from 30% to 87% of the cave-dwellers' diet from about 40nbsp;000 to about
35 000 years ago.
And since a similar pattern was found in the bones of smaller mammals such as mice and voles, Morin was able to
conclude that a "relatively rapid" climatic change resulted in a drop-off in the region's bison and horse herds.
This climate change was as dramatic as the difference between the temperate forests near Montreal and the sparse
Arctic region to the north, he explained.
With their survival tied to unstable reindeer herds subject to frequent crashes, the population density of Neanderthals in
the region dropped dramatically, Morin surmised.
Population bottleneck
This created a "population bottleneck" in which the genetic diversity of Neanderthals was dramatically reduced,
allowing rare mutations to become fixed, Morin concluded.
It's also possible that the harsh conditions forced the hunter-gathering Neanderthals to roam farther afield in search of
food and to expand their social networks in order to protect themselves from hard times.
This may also have helped spread the genetic traits found in Cro-Magnons and the use of more complex tools and cave
paintings.
Morin said: "It remains a mystery why all these changes occurred together, but I don't think they occurred as a result
of a modern-human migration.
"A lot of people have argued for a population increase (as modern man expanded both numerically and spatially) and
this study has shown that is not possible."
AFP

Birds 'descended from velociraptors'
New evidence that birds evolved from a group of agile two legged dinosaurs emerges today from a study that shows
dinosaurs had "fowl breath."

'Vacuum cleaner' dinosaur discovered in Niger
Palaeontologists have found a peculiar 110 million-year-old dinosaur with a mouth that worked like a vacuum cleaner,
hundreds of tiny teeth and nearly translucent skull bones, writes Roger Highfield.

Ancient man walked on modern feet
NAIROBI, Kenya (UPI) -- Anthropologists say ancient footprints found in Kenya show that early humans walked on the
same type of foot modern humans walk on.
John W.K. Harris, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, and colleagues said fossils of two right footprints
that date back 1.5 million years display anatomically modern features.
The footprints found at Rutgers' Koobi Fora Field School in Kenya show the big toe parallel to the other toes, unlike apes
where the big toe is separated in a grasping configuration useful in the trees. The footprints also show a human-like arch
and short toes, typically associated with an upright bipedal stance, the university said in a release.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Fossil find may be monkey, human ancestor
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (UPI) -- A University of Michigan professor says the discovery of a 47 million-year-old fossil may
be from a primate species related to humans, apes and monkeys. Michigan paleontology Professor Philip Gingeric,
who also serves as the president-elect of the Paleontological Society of the United States, said the newly discovered
fossil also supports the adapid theory of evolution, The Wall Street Journal said Monday.
A major ongoing evolutionary debate is focused on whether humans descended from an ape-like group called the
tarsidae, the known descendants of the modern Asian primate tarsier, or the adapidae, whose modern descendant is Madagascar's lemur. Gingeric said the new fossil offers evidence for the latter and traditionally less accepted theory.
"This discovery brings a forgotten group into focus as a possible ancestor of higher primates," Gingeric said of the
archeological find.
Gingeric said the fossil, which will go on display next Tuesday at New York City's American Museum of Natural History,
is of a young female adapid.
The Journal said the fossilized skeleton of the ancient primate was found near Frankfurt, Germany, in the Messel Shale
Pit.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International