Blogs about hominins

Molar of the Neanderthal man cataloged as Spy 94a

An article published in the journal “Science” reports the results of the sequencing of the Y chromosome, the one that determines the male sex among humans, of three Neanderthals and two Denisovans. A team of researchers led by Martin Petr and Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology performed high-quality sequencing using a very advanced approach to obtain the genetic sequences of the Y chromosomes of a total of 5 hominins. This made it possible to compare them with each other and with those of modern humans to obtain new information on the relationships among the various species. An interesting conclusion is that the Neanderthal Y chromosome was received from Homo sapiens with whom they must have interbred much earlier than we thought, no less than 100,000 years ago and possibly even 370,000 years ago.

The population model used in the research

An article published in the journal “PLOS Genetics” reports a genetic study showing the traces of various interbreedings between different species of hominins. Melissa Hubisz and Amy Williams of Cornell University and Adam Siepel of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory developed a genetic analysis software that can recognize relations and applied it to a group of genomes that includes two Neanderthals, a Denisovan, and two African modern humans. The result is evidence that 3% of Neanderthal DNA came from ancient humans in an interbreeding between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago, 1% of Denisovan DNA came from an older species, maybe Homo erectus, and 15% of that “superarchaic” DNA may have been passed on to modern humans.

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.