Blogs about hominins

Harbin Cranium

Various articles report the results of separate studies on fossils belonging to species of the genus Homo whose identification is based on fossils discovered in China and Israel, respectively. In both cases, the publication caused controversy. Three articles published in the journal “The Innovation” report various aspects of the identification of what was named Homo longi, based on a skull dated at least 146,000 years discovered in modern-day China. Three articles published in the journal “Science” report various aspects of the identification of a population that belongs to the genus Homo for now indicated only as Homo from Nesher Ramla, based on fossils dated between 120,000 and 140,000 years ago.

Researchers Zenobia Jacobs, Bo Li and Kieran O'Gorman during sample collection (Photo courtesy Dr. Richard G. Roberts. All rights reserved)

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports the results of the sequencing of DNA found in the sediments of the Denisova Cave, in Siberia. A team of researchers achieved the largest sequencing ever conducted on genomes recovered from sediments from a single site with 728 samples. The results offer a picture of the occupation of that cave over a period of more than 300,000 years by three human species: the Denisovans, the Neanderthals, and the Homo sapiens. However, most of the samples turned out to be DNA from various animals, which is also useful because it offers information on the connection between humans and the species that various populations ate.

A schematic of how the system called genomatnn recognizes adaptive introgression

An article published in the journal “eLife” reports the development of an approach based on convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to identify genes inherited from other species such as Neanderthals that brought positive effects. A team of researchers led by Graham Gower of the Danish University of Copenhagen developed this deep learning technique to examine genomes of modern humans for examples of what is technically called introgression, which means genes that a hybrid between two species brought into one of his parents’ species. Various possible examples have been found, for example, genes inherited from Denisovans have been found in Melanesians that affect various metabolic and disease-related traits.

Pestera Muierii 1 skull (Photo courtesy Mattias Jakobsson)

An article published in the journal “Current Biology” reports the sequencing of the whole genome of the woman who lived about 35,000 years ago in today’s Romania and is referred to as Pestera Muierii 1. A team of researchers led by Professor Mattias Jakobsson of Uppsala University, Sweden, successfully conducted the first complete sequencing of this woman’s DNA. It’s one of the very few complete genomes of people who lived over 30,000 years ago. Its genetic diversity compared to today’s humans suggests that some of it was lost during the Ice Age and not in the migration from Africa.

Excavation in the Galería de las Estatuas cave site (Photo courtesy Javier Trueba - Madrid Scientific Films. All rights reserved)

An article published in the journal “Science” reports the extraction of nuclear DNA belonging to Neanderthals from sediments excavated in deposits in northern Spain and Siberia. A team of researchers led by Benjamin Vernot of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, used techniques to extract DNA from sediments developed over the past few years. At the Spanish site, this made it possible to discover DNA linked to different Neanderthal populations with one population being replaced by another about 100,000 years ago.