Blogs about hominins

Reconstruction of Turkana Boy's upper body

An article published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution” reports a study of the fossils of the so-called Turkana boy, the most complete early human skeleton found so far. A team of paleoanthropologists led by Markus Bastir of the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid and Daniel García-Martínez of the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) in Burgos, Spain, created a three-dimensional reconstruction of the Turkana boy’s rib cage to compare their characteristics with those of other hominins. The result is that it was stockier than Homo sapiens, different from the idea of ​​the first runners that paleoanthropologists have of Homo erectus and Homo ergaster.

Neanderthal relationships tree

An article published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” reports a high-quality sequencing of the DNA of a Neanderthal woman. A team of researchers led by Svante Pääbo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, completed the third sequencing of a Neanderthal at such a level. The remains of this woman were discovered in the Chagyrskaya Cave, where she lived between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago, and consequently classified as Chagyrskaya 8. Her genetic characteristics indicate that she was more closely related to the population who lived in today’s Croatia than with the one who lived in Siberia 40,000 years earlier.

Phylogenetic relationships of the archaic fragments sequenced in Icelanders

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports a genetic study carried out using data obtained from 27,566 Icelanders to understand which parts of modern humans’ genome contain genes inherited from Neanderthals following interbreedings, and what role it plays in modern humans. A team of researchers performed a comparative analysis with hominin genomes sequenced at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) in Leipzig, Germany, finding many different genes scattered in the Icelandic genomes. By putting them together, they reconstructed at least 38% of the Neanderthal genome using 14 million fragments. A surprise came from the discovery of Denisovans genes, usually present in Asian populations, but it’s possible that they too were inherited from Neanderthals who descended from interbreedings with Denisova.

Homo antecessor bones (Image courtesy José María Bermúdez de Castro)

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports a study based on the extraction of proteins from a tooth about 800,000 years old attributed to the species Homo antecessor. A team of researchers used a mass spectrometry technique to obtain that information, very useful for a better understanding of the relationships among the various human species. The conclusion is that Homo antecessor could be closely related to the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Little Foot's skull

An article published in the journal “Scientific Reports” reports a study on the characteristics of the skull of the specimen of Australopithecus nicknamed “Little Foot” that offers information on this species’ life. A team of researchers from Wits University led by Dr Amélie Beaudet examined a 3D reproduction of the fossil generated by subjecting it to a high resolution micro-CT scan. The presence of the first cervical vertebra has a crucial role in the biology of vertebrates and the Little Foot’s one is in its place offering information on the possible head movements for this species of Australopithecus, different from those possible for modern humans.