Evolution

An article recently published in the journal “Nature” describes the study of the DNA of hominids found in a place in northern Spain called Sima de los Huesos, which means pit of bones. The DNA analysis of these fossils of hominids who lived between 300,000 and 400,000 years ago established that they are an early form of Neanderthals. According to paleogeneticist Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, the results suggest that the ancestors of homo sapiens separated from those of the Neanderthals and another species called Denisovans between 550,000 and 765,000 years ago.

Part of the bones of the hominids called Homo naledi discovered in South Africa (Photo Lee Berger and colleagues)

An article published in the online magazine “eLife” describes the discovery of about 1,500 pieces of bones from at least 15 individuals in a cave called Rising Star about 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa. According to the researchers, it’s a species related to humans unlike any known one they called Homo naledi. Another article will be published in the October issue of the magazine “National Geographic”. However, the classification of these fossils has already generated some controversy.

Artistic representation of a Pentecopterus decorahensis (Image courtesy Patrick Lynch / Yale University. All rights reserved)

An article in the journal “BMC Evolutionary Biology” describes the discovery of fossils of Pentecopterus decorahensis, a sea scorpion that lived in the Ordovician period, about 467 million years ago, in Iowa. It was huge by arthropods standards because it’s estimated that its length could reach 180 cm (almost 6 feet). It’s in fact one of the largest arthropods ever lived and according to James Lamsdell, the lead author of this study, was part of a group of important predators in the Paleozoic era.

Catopsbaatar catopsaloides, an ancient mammal that belonged to the multituberculates order

An article published in the journal “Current Biology” describes a research showing that there was a rapid evolution of mammals during the Jurassic period, between 200 and 145 million years ago. That period and in general the Mesozoic era, between 252 and 66 million years ago, were the dinosaurs era so we tended to think that mammals lived in their shadow, in ecological niches, such as nocturnal insectivores. Instead, the discovery of new fossils in recent years showed a series of adaptations with a previously unknown diversification.

Aegirocassis benmoulai fossil and scheme

An article recently published in the “Journal of the Geological Society” describes a research on the fossils of the Lower Fezouata formation in the south-east of Morocco, a deposit discovered only five years ago. These fossils shed light on the evolution of many families of animals in the Ordovician period, between 485 and 444 million years ago. In particular, it shows that some of the oldest animals survived millions of years longer than it was inferred from previously found fossils.