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The Evolution of Man

Italy Ngala Online
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#91

@GrizzlyClaws 

About the Denisovan, i think that is an extremely interesting branch of our evolutionary tree, that for many reason was missing and was never found before. In fact, the major researches is carried in Africa and Europe.

This Homo has all the genetic characteristics of being a new species, perhaps a hybrid between H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis that has developed in Asia, or a single branch that is located between Neanderthal and H. sapiens. The two skulls found in China (the story at the top of the page, reply #76) might be just this alleged species. Unfortunately, it's been impossible to obtain genetic material from these skulls, but if these suggestions will be confirmed, we will find in front of another interesting piece of our evolutionary history.

We have always had the wrong conception that our evolution has taken place in a straight line, but in reality it's the exact opposite. How many ramifications have been lost or are still waiting to be discovered.
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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#92
( This post was last modified: 06-10-2017, 01:05 AM by GrizzlyClaws )

It could also be a hybrid of H. antecessor and H. heidelbergensis, since H. heidelbergensis has the known fossil record in China.

The same question could be raised for the modern human; was H. sapiens itself created via the hybridization of many archaic human species?
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Italy Ngala Online
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( This post was last modified: 06-10-2017, 01:43 AM by Ngala )

If we see the temporal line of evolution, Denisovan is collocated between H. heidelbergensis and H. sapiens, and is a contemporary with this last species and H. neanderthalensis; this exclude the possibility of hybridization between H. hedelbergensis and H. antecessor.

A possible hyb. between H. heidelbergensis and Neanderthal?
Neanderthal develop in Europe, H. sapiens in Africa via Denisovan that descend from H. heidelbergensis from Asia?
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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( This post was last modified: 06-10-2017, 02:00 AM by GrizzlyClaws )

Could be something like that?

H. erectus: H. habilis (Africa) -> H. georgicus (West Asia) -> H. erectus (East Asia)
H. neanderthalensis: H. habilis (Africa) -> H. ergaster (Africa) -> H. antecessor (Europe) -> H. neanderthalensis (Europe)
H. sapiens: H. habilis (Africa) -> H. ergaster (Africa) -> H. antecesor (Europe) -> H. heidelbergensis (Europe -> Asia) -> Denisovan (Asia) -> H. rhodesiensis (Africa) -> H. sapiens (Africa)

In order to explore the myth of our ancestors, we need to fully abandon the belief the straight line evolution, but to develop more critical thinking about the multiregional origin of the modern human evolution.
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World’s oldest Homo sapiens fossils found in Morocco

By Ann GibbonsJun. 7, 2017 , 1:00 PM




*This image is copyright of its original author




For decades, researchers seeking the origin of our species have scoured the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. Now, their quest has taken an unexpected detour west to Morocco: Researchers have redated a long-overlooked skull from a cave called Jebel Irhoud to a startling 300,000 years ago, and unearthed new fossils and stone tools. The result is the oldest well-dated evidence of Homo sapiens, pushing back the appearance of our kind by 100,000 years. 
“This stuff is a time and a half older than anything else put forward as H. sapiens,” says paleoanthropologist John Fleagle of the State University of New York in Stony Brook. 
The discoveries, reported in Nature, suggest that our species came into the world face-first, evolving modern facial traits while the back of the skull remained elongated like those of archaic humans. The findings also suggest that the earliest chapters of our species’s story may have played out across the African continent. “These hominins are on the fringes of the world at that time,” says archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.


Back in 1961, miners searching for the mineral barite stumbled on a stunningly complete fossil skull at Jebel Irhoud, 75 kilometers from Morocco’s west coast. With its big brain but primitive skull shape, the skull was initially assumed to be an African Neandertal. In 2007, researchers published a date of 160,000 years based on radiometric dating of a human tooth. That suggested that the fossil represented a lingering remnant of an archaic species, perhaps H. heidelbergensis, which may be the ancestor of both Neandertals and H. sapiens. In any case, the skull still appeared to be younger than the oldest accepted H. sapiens fossils. 
Those fossils were found in East Africa, long the presumed cradle of human evolution. At Herto, in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley, researchers dated H. sapiens skulls to about 160,000 years ago; farther south at Omo Kibish, two skullcaps are dated to about 195,000 years ago, making them the oldest widely accepted members of our species, until now. “The mantra has been that the speciation of H. sapiens was somewhere around 200,000 years ago,” Petraglia says.
Some researchers thought the trail of our species might have begun earlier. After all, geneticists date the split of humans and our closest cousins, the Neandertals, to at least 500,000 years ago, notes paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. So you might expect to find hints of our species somewhere in Africa well before 200,000 years ago, he says. 
One of the few people who continued to ponder the Jebel Irhoud skull was French paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin, who had begun his career in 1981 studying a jaw found at Jebel Irhoud. When he moved to the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, he got funding to reopen the now-collapsed cave, which is 100 kilometers west of Marrakesh, Morocco. Hublin’s team began new excavations in 2004, hoping to date the small chunk of intact sediment layers and tie them to the original discovery layer. “We were very lucky,” Hublin says. “We didn’t just get dates, we got more hominids.”
The team now has new partial skulls, jaws, teeth, and leg and arm bones from at least five individuals, including a child and an adolescent, mostly from a single layer that also contained stone tools. In their detailed statistical analysis of the fossils, Hublin and paleoanthropologist Philipp Gunz, also of the Max Planck in Leipzig, find that a new partial skull has thin brow ridges. And its face tucks under the skull rather than projecting forward, similar to the complete Irhoud skull as well as to people today. But the Jebel Irhoud fossils also had an elongated brain case and “very large” teeth, like more archaic species of Homo, the authors write. 
World’s oldest Homo sapiens fossils found in Morocco


The pan-African dawn of Homo sapiens

New dates and fossils from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco suggest that our species emerged across Africa. The new findings may help researchers sort out how these selected fossils from the past 600,000 years are related to modern humans and to one another. 




*This image is copyright of its original author



The fossils suggest that faces evolved modern features before the skull and brain took on the globular shape seen in the Herto fossils and in living people. “It’s a long story—it wasn’t that one day, suddenly these people were modern,” Hublin says. 
Neandertals show the same pattern: Putative Neandertal ancestors such as 400,000-year-old fossils in Spain have elongated, archaic skulls with specialized Neandertal traits in their faces. “It’s a plausible argument that the face evolves first,” says paleoanthropologist Richard Klein of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, although researchers don’t know what selection pressures might drive this. 
This scenario hinges on the revised date for the skull, which was obtained from burnt flint tools. (The tools also confirm that the Jebel Irhoud people controlled fire.) Archaeologist Daniel Richter of the Max Planck in Leipzig used a thermoluminescence technique to measure how much time had elapsed since crystalline minerals in the flint were heated by fire. He got 14 dates that yielded an average age of 314,000 years, with a margin of error from 280,000 to 350,000 years. This fits with another new date of 286,000 years (with a range of 254,000 to 318,000 years), from improved radiometric dating of a tooth. These findings suggest that the previous date was wrong, and fit with the known age of certain species of zebra, leopard, and antelope in the same layer of sediment. “From a dating standpoint, I think they’ve done a really good job,” says geochronologist Bert Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia. 
Once Hublin saw the date, “we realized we had grabbed the very root of the whole species lineage,” he says. The skulls are so transitional that naming them becomes a problem: The team calls them early H. sapiens rather than the “early anatomically modern humans” described at Omo and Herto. 
Some people might still consider these robust humans “highly evolved H. heidelbergensis,” says paleoanthropologist Alison Brooks of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She and others, though, think they do look like our kind. “The main skull looks like something that could be near the root of the H. sapiens lineage,” says Klein, who says he would call them “protomodern, not modern.”
The team doesn’t propose that the Jebel Irhoud people were directly ancestral to all the rest of us. Rather, they suggest that these ancient humans were part of a large, interbreeding population that spread across Africa when the Sahara was green about 300,000 to 330,000 years ago; they later evolved as a group toward modern humans. “H. sapiens evolution happened on a continental scale,” Gunz says. 
Support for that picture comes from the tools that Hublin’s team discovered. They include hundreds of stone flakes that had been hammered repeatedly to sharpen them and two cores—the lumps of stone from which the blades were flaked off—characteristic of the Middle Stone Age (MSA). Some researchers thought that archaic humans such as H. heidelbergensis invented these tools. But the new dates suggest that this kind of toolkit, found at sites across Africa, may be a hallmark of H. sapiens.
The finds will help scientists make sense of a handful of tantalizing and poorly dated skulls from across Africa, each with its own combination of modern and primitive traits. For example, the new date may strengthen a claim that a somewhat archaic partial skull at Florisbad in South Africa, roughly dated to 260,000 years ago, may be early H. sapiens. But the date may also widen the distance between H. sapiens and another species, H. naledi, that lived at this time in South Africa.
The connections among these skulls and the appearance of MSA tools across Africa at this time and possibly earlier shows “a lot of communication across the continent,” Brooks says. “This shows a pan-African phenomenon, with people expanding and contracting across the continent for a long time."
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Italy Ngala Online
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( This post was last modified: 06-11-2017, 03:22 PM by Ngala )

I've also read this news these days, thank you GrizzlyClaws. I add the two studies on this Homo sapiens from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco:

New fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco and the pan-African origin of Homo sapiens Hublin et al., 2017

Abstract:
"Fossil evidence points to an African origin of Homo sapiens from a group called either H. heidelbergensis or H. rhodesiensis. However, the exact place and time of emergence of H. sapiens remain obscure because the fossil record is scarce and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain. In particular, it is unclear whether the present day ‘modern’ morphology rapidly emerged approximately 200 thousand years ago (ka) among earlier representatives of H. sapiens or evolved gradually over the last 400 thousand years. Here we report newly discovered human fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and interpret the affinities of the hominins from this site with other archaic and recent human groups. We identified a mosaic of features including facial, mandibular and dental morphology that aligns the Jebel Irhoud material with early or recent anatomically modern humans and more primitive neurocranial and endocranial morphology. In combination with an age of 315 ± 34 thousand years (as determined by thermoluminescence dating), this evidence makes Jebel Irhoud the oldest and richest African Middle Stone Age hominin site that documents early stages of the H. sapiens clade in which key features of modern morphology were established. Furthermore, it shows that the evolutionary processes behind the emergence of H. sapiens involved the whole African continent."

The age of the hominin fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and the origins of the Middle Stone Age Richter et al., 2017

Abstract:
"The timing and location of the emergence of our species and of associated behavioural changes are crucial for our understanding of human evolution. The earliest fossil attributed to a modern form of Homo sapiens comes from eastern Africa and is approximately 195 thousand years old, therefore the emergence of modern human biology is commonly placed at around 200 thousand years ago. The earliest Middle Stone Age assemblages come from eastern and southern Africa but date much earlier. Here we report the ages, determined by thermoluminescence dating, of fire-heated flint artefacts obtained from new excavations at the Middle Stone Age site of Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, which are directly associated with newly discovered remains of H. sapiens. A weighted average age places these Middle Stone Age artefacts and fossils at 315 ± 34 thousand years ago. Support is obtained through the recalculated uranium series with electron spin resonance date of 286 ± 32 thousand years ago for a tooth from the Irhoud 3 hominin mandible. These ages are also consistent with the faunal and microfaunal assemblages and almost double the previous age estimates for the lower part of the deposits. The north African site of Jebel Irhoud contains one of the earliest directly dated Middle Stone Age assemblages, and its associated human remains are the oldest reported for H. sapiens. The emergence of our species and of the Middle Stone Age appear to be close in time, and these data suggest a larger scale, potentially pan-African, origin for both."

From Phys.org:
"The mandible Irhoud 11 is the first, almost complete adult mandible discovered at the site of Jebel Irhoud. It is very robust and reminiscent of the smaller Tabun C2 mandible discovered in Israel in a much younger deposit. The bone morphology and the dentition display a mosaic of archaic and evolved features, clearly assigning it to the root of our own lineage. Credit: Jean-Jacques Hublin, MPI-EVA, Leipzig"

*This image is copyright of its original author

Other articles related:
Oldest Homo sapiens fossils ever found push humanity's birth back to 300,000 years
Scientists discover the oldest Homo sapiens fossils at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco
New research pushes back origin of human species by 100,000 years
Oldest Homo sapiens fossil claim rewrites our species' history
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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Oldest skeleton ever found reveals our primate ancestors didn't live on the ground

Earth’s earliest primates dwelled in treetops, not on the ground, according to an analysis of a 62-million-year-old partial skeleton discovered in New Mexico.
The skeleton—the oldest ever found—was discovered in the San Juan Basin by Thomas Williamson, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, and his twin sons, Taylor and Ryan.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Torrejonia wilsoni
Image: Stephen Chester, Brooklyn College, City University of New York
Torrejonia, a small mammal from an extinct group of primates called plesiadapiforms, had skeletal features adapted to living in trees, including flexible joints for climbing and clinging to branches.
Researchers had previously proposed that plesiadapiforms in Palaechthonidae, the family to which Torrejonia belongs, were terrestrial based on details from cranial and dental fossils consistent with animals that nose about on the ground for insects.
“This is the oldest partial skeleton of a plesiadapiform, and it shows that they undoubtedly lived in trees,” says lead author Stephen Chester, an assistant professor at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and curatorial affiliate of vertebrate paleontology at the Yale Peabody Museum, who began this collaborative research while at Yale University studying for his PhD.
“We now have anatomical evidence from the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, and ankle joints that allows us to assess where these animals lived in a way that was impossible when we only had their teeth and jaws.”
The findings, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, support the hypothesis that plesiadapiforms, which first appear in the fossil record shortly after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, were the earliest primates. The data also provide additional evidence that all of the geologically oldest primates known from skeletal remains, encompassing several species, were arboreal.
“To find a skeleton like this, even though it appears a little scrappy, is an exciting discovery…”
The partial skeleton consists of over 20 separate bones, including parts of the cranium, jaws, teeth, and portions of the upper and lower limbs. The presence of associated teeth allowed Williamson, a coauthor of the study, to identify the specimen as Torrejonia because the taxonomy of extinct mammals is based mostly on dental traits, says Eric Sargis, professor of anthropology at Yale and senior author of the study.
“To find a skeleton like this, even though it appears a little scrappy, is an exciting discovery that brings a lot of new data to bear on the study of the origin and early evolution of primates.”
Palaechthonids, and other plesiadapiforms, had outward-facing eyes and relied on smell more than living primates do today—details suggesting that plesiadapiforms are transitional between other mammals and modern primates, Sargis says.
The site where the partial skeleton was discovered, known as the Torrejon Fossil Fauna Area, is a remote area in northwestern New Mexico administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management. These public lands are managed to protect the scientific value of the paleontological resources found there. The collection of the Torrejonia took place under a permit from the agency.
Jonathan Bloch of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida and Mary Silcox of the anthropology department at the University of Toronto Scarborough are coauthors.
The National Science Foundation supported the work.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/o...ign=buffer
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( This post was last modified: 06-13-2017, 08:07 PM by Ngala )

Thanks for sharing Pckts. I add the scientific paper related:

Oldest skeleton of a plesiadapiform provides additional evidence for an exclusively arboreal radiation of stem primates in the Palaeocene Chester, Williamson, Bloch, Silcox & Sargis, 2017

Abstract:
"Palaechthonid plesiadapiforms from the Palaeocene of western North America have long been recognized as among the oldest and most primitive euarchontan mammals, a group that includes extant primates, colugos and treeshrews. Despite their relatively sparse fossil record, palaechthonids have played an important role in discussions surrounding adaptive scenarios for primate origins for nearly a half-century. Likewise, palaechthonids have been considered important for understanding relationships among plesiadapiforms, with members of the group proposed as plausible ancestors of Paromomyidae and Microsyopidae. Here, we describe a dentally associated partial skeleton of Torrejonia wilsoni from the early Palaeocene (approx. 62 Ma) of New Mexico, which is the oldest known plesiadapiform skeleton and the first postcranial elements recovered for a palaechthonid. Results from a cladistic analysis that includes new data from this skeleton suggest that palaechthonids are a paraphyletic group of stem primates, and that T. wilsoni is most closely related to paromomyids. New evidence from the appendicular skeleton of T. wilsoni fails to support an influential hypothesis based on inferences from craniodental morphology that palaechthonids were terrestrial. Instead, the postcranium of T. wilsoni indicates that it was similar to that of all other plesiadapiforms for which skeletons have been recovered in having distinct specializations consistent with arboreality."

Other articles related:
Fossil skeleton confirms earliest primates were tree dwellers
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( This post was last modified: 06-14-2017, 05:20 PM by Ngala )

This is an evolutionary tree that show the relationship between the hominoids, proposed by Harrison T., 2010 (Apes Among the Tangled Branches of Human Origins).

As we can see, the branch of hominids show more points uncertain than certainties.

*This image is copyright of its original author
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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( This post was last modified: 07-21-2017, 03:30 PM by Ngala )

Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago Clarkson et al., 2017

Abstract:
"The time of arrival of people in Australia is an unresolved question. It is relevant to debates about when modern humans first dispersed out of Africa and when their descendants incorporated genetic material from Neanderthals, Denisovans and possibly other hominins. Humans have also been implicated in the extinction of Australia’s megafauna. Here we report the results of new excavations conducted at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in northern Australia. Artefacts in primary depositional context are concentrated in three dense bands, with the stratigraphic integrity of the deposit demonstrated by artefact refits and by optical dating and other analyses of the sediments. Human occupation began around 65,000 years ago, with a distinctive stone tool assemblage including grinding stones, ground ochres, reflective additives and ground-edge hatchet heads. This evidence sets a new minimum age for the arrival of humans in Australia, the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, and the subsequent interactions of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans."

Other articles related:
Australia human history 'rewritten by rock find
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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Archaic hominin introgression in Africa contributes to functional salivary MUC7 genetic variation Xu et al., 2017

Abstract:
"One of the most abundant proteins in human saliva, mucin-7, is encoded by the MUC7 gene, which harbors copy number variable subexonic repeats (PTS-repeats) that affect the size and glycosylation potential of this protein. We recently documented the adaptive evolution of MUC7 subexonic copy number variation among primates. Yet, the evolution of MUC7 genetic variation in humans remained unexplored. Here, we found that PTS-repeat copy number variation has evolved recurrently in the human lineage, thereby generating multiple haplotypic backgrounds carrying 5 or 6 PTS-repeat copy number alleles. Contrary to previous studies, we found no associations between the copy number of PTS-repeat copy number and protection against asthma. Instead, we revealed a significant association of MUC7 haplotypic variation with the composition of the oral microbiome. Furthermore, based on in-depth simulations, we conclude that a divergent MUC7 haplotype likely originated in an unknown African hominin population and introgressed into ancestors of modern Africans."


Article related:

Human Ancestor Mated with 'Ghost Lineage' And the Proof Is in Your Spit
By Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor | July 25, 2017 02:23pm ET

Scientists have found that a "ghost" lineage of archaic human may have interbred with the ancestors of modern humans in what is now sub-Saharan Africa around 200,000 years ago.
Credit: Bob Wilder/University at Buffalo

*This image is copyright of its original author

A protein that helps make human spit slimy reveals signs that the ancestors of modern humans interbred with an extinct human lineage that was an even more distant relation than Neanderthals, a new study finds.

The ancestors of modern humans once shared the world with ancient human lineages such as the Neanderthals, the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, as well as the Denisovans, which might have once roamed a vast range stretching from Siberia to Southeast Asia. In previous research, DNA extracted from fossilized bones and teeth of Neanderthals and Denisovans has revealed that the ancestors of modern humans interbred with both of these groups.

Previous research also suggested that the ancestors of modern humans may have interbred with other human lineages not known from the fossil record. For example, a 2011 study analyzing modern human DNA found that the species may have bred with a now-extinct lineage of humanity before leaving Africa. [Denisovan Gallery: Tracing the Genetics of Human Ancestors]

Now, researchers suggest that a "ghost" lineage of ancient humans may have contributed the DNA for a protein called mucin-7 found in the saliva of modern humans living in sub-Saharan Africa today.

"About 5 to 7 percent of every population in sub-Saharan Africa has this divergent protein," said Omer Gokcumen, study co-senior author of the new study and an evolutionary genomicist at the University at Buffalo in New York.

Slimy saliva

The scientists were investigating mucin-7 in order to learn more about its role in human health. This molecule helps give saliva its slimy consistency and binds onto microbes, potentially helping rid the body of dangerous germs.

The researchers examined copies of the gene for mucin-7 — the gene is called MUC7 — in more than 2,500 modern human genomes. The scientists found that a number of genomes from sub-Saharan Africa possessed a version of the MUC7 gene that was wildly different from versions found in other modern humans. In fact, the Neanderthal and Denisovan versions of this gene more closely resembled those of other modern humans than this outlier did.

The researchers suggested the most plausible explanation for this mysterious version of the MUC7 gene is that it came from what they called a "ghost" lineage — that is, one that scientists have not found the fossils of yet.

"We were not looking for this discovery — we essentially stumbled onto it," Gokcumen told Live Science.

That this variant is so widespread across Africa suggests that it may have entered the modern human gene pool before the ancestors of modern humans separated into different regions across that continent, Gokcumen said. Given the usual rate at which genes mutate during the course of time, the researchers estimated the interbreeding event with this mystery lineage "may have happened about 200,000 years ago, but this lineage separated from the ancestors of modern humans maybe 500,000 years or 1 million years ago," Gokcumen added.

Mouth microbes

The scientists said they aren't sure how the variants of this protein might differ in function. "We do know that MUC7 has two major functions," said study co-senior author Stefan Ruhl, an oral biologist also at the University at Buffalo. "One is helping to lubricate the oral cavity for eating and swallowing, and the other, and this may be more important, is to let good microbes stay in the body and sort out the undesirable ones."

An analysis of mouth, skin, stool and other biological samples from 130 people revealed that different versions of MUC7 were strongly associated with different oral microbiomes — the collections of microbes within the mouth. "This suggests that MUC7 is interacting with the oral microbiome and plays a role in terms of viruses, bacteria, parasites or fungi," Ruhl told Live Science. "On the other hand, we haven't ruled out that it may play a role in lubrication — say, when it comes to environmental conditions such as dryness of the air."

Future research can explore when and where this interbreeding happened, "and if it happened just once or multiple times," Gokcumen said.

The scientists detailed their findings online July 21 in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. 

Original article on Live Science.
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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CONGO: A GROUP OF CHIMPANZEES SEEM TO HAVE MASTERED FIRE

*This image is copyright of its original author


Ubundu| A group of bonobo apes living in the Salonga National Park, may have mastered the basic practice of creating and using fire. This particular group of almost three hundred specimens from this rare and extremely intelligent race of great apes, have been under close surveillance by a team of primatologist for the last three years, and seem to have recently developed a primitive fire building technique using rocks and twigs.

The bonobo, formerly called pygmy chimpanzees, is a omnivorous great ape found in a 500 000km2 area of the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is mostly popularly known for its high levels of sexual behavior and its use of  almost a dozen different primitive tools. Its level of intelligence is already considered to be almost unique amongst ape, being topped only by humans. Two bonobos at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa, Kanzi and Panbanisha, have been even taught how to communicate using a keyboard labeled with lexigrams (geometric symbols) and they can respond to spoken sentences. Kanzi’s vocabulary consists of more than 500 English words and he has comprehension of around 3,000 spoken English words.
It is however, the first time that a group of these primates develops some technical concepts as elaborate as these on their own. 


*This image is copyright of its original author

A few individual apes seem to have originally developed a rudimentary technique of rather poor efficiency, but the group gradually improved it through experimentation and observation over the last few months. They are now able to create and maintain a fire, which they have been using mostly to scare off predators and cook some of their food. Some individuals in particular among the group, seem to have rapidly grown a taste for cooked foodstuffs, especially flying squirrels. This also enabled the group to develop to a population which is much larger than has ever been encountered in the species, by bringing increased security and by diversifying food sources.
This absolutely astonishing evolution has gotten primatologists as well as many other scientists from around the world, really excited. This could be a unique occasion to study the evolution of a species during a crucial moment of its history, and could bring a lot of information concerning the early developments of humankind. The congolese rural population of the other hand have a very different perception of the situation, as “torch bearing apes” have been accused of setting fire to more than 1500km2 of forest since the beginning of the year, causing the death of three people.
In the wild, expect the unexpected, as we humans haven't really much clue of what to expect.
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Possible footprints of Graecopithecus?

Possible hominin footprints from the late Miocene (c. 5.7 Ma) of Crete? Gierliński et al., 2017

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Fig. 8.  Photograph of two prints possibly representing a static stance of one individual.

Abstract:
"We describe late Miocene tetrapod footprints (tracks) from the Trachilos locality in western Crete (Greece), which show hominin-like characteristics. They occur in an emergent horizon within an otherwise marginal marine succession of Messinian age (latest Miocene), dated to approximately 5.7 Ma (million years), just prior to the Messinian Salinity Crisis. The tracks indicate that the trackmaker lacked claws, and was bipedal, plantigrade, pentadactyl and strongly entaxonic. The impression of the large and non-divergent first digit (hallux) has a narrow neck and bulbous asymmetrical distal pad. The lateral digit impressions become progressively smaller so that the digital region as a whole is strongly asymmetrical. A large, rounded ball impression is associated with the hallux. Morphometric analysis shows the footprints to have outlines that are distinct from modern non-hominin primates and resemble those of hominins. The interpretation of these footprints is potentially controversial. The print morphology suggests that the trackmaker was a basal member of the clade Hominini, but as Crete is some distance outside the known geographical range of pre-Pleistocene hominins we must also entertain the possibility that they represent a hitherto unknown late Miocene primate that convergently evolved human-like foot anatomy."

Other articles related:
Fossil footprints challenge established theories of human evolution
5.7-Million-Year-Old Hominin Footprints Challenge Human Evolutionary Timeline
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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New Middle Pleistocene hominin cranium from Gruta da Aroeira (Portugal) Daura et al., 2017

*This image is copyright of its original author

Fig. 3. The original completely restored Aroeira 3 cranium in lateral view (A) and the virtual reconstruction and original fossil in inferior view (B) (also Figs. S4 and S5). (Scale bars, 5 cm.)

Significance
We describe a recently discovered cranium from the Aroeira cave in Portugal dated to around 400 ka. This specimen is the westernmost Middle Pleistocene cranium of Europe and is one of the earliest fossils from this region associated with Acheulean tools. Unlike most other Middle Pleistocene finds, which are of uncertain chronology, the Aroeira 3 cranium is firmly dated to around 400 ka and was in direct association with abundant faunal remains and stone tools. In addition, the presence of burnt bones suggests a controlled use of fire. The Aroeira cranium represents a substantial contribution to the debate on the origin of the Neandertals and the pattern of human evolution in the Middle Pleistocene of Europe.

Abstract:
"The Middle Pleistocene is a crucial time period for studying human evolution in Europe, because it marks the appearance of both fossil hominins ancestral to the later Neandertals and the Acheulean technology. Nevertheless, European sites containing well-dated human remains associated with an Acheulean toolkit remain scarce. The earliest European hominin crania associated with Acheulean handaxes are at the sites of Arago, Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos (SH), and Swanscombe, dating to 400–500 ka (Marine Isotope Stage 11–12). The Atapuerca (SH) fossils and the Swanscombe cranium belong to the Neandertal clade, whereas the Arago hominins have been attributed to an incipient stage of Neandertal evolution, to Homo heidelbergensis, or to a subspecies of Homo erectus. A recently discovered cranium (Aroeira 3) from the Gruta da Aroeira (Almonda karst system, Portugal) dating to 390–436 ka provides important evidence on the earliest European Acheulean-bearing hominins. This cranium is represented by most of the right half of a calvarium (with the exception of the missing occipital bone) and a fragmentary right maxilla preserving part of the nasal floor and two fragmentary molars. The combination of traits in the Aroeira 3 cranium augments the previously documented diversity in the European Middle Pleistocene fossil record."
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from Pleistocene sediments Slon et al., 2017

Abstract:
"Although a rich record of Pleistocene human-associated archaeological assemblages exists, the scarcity of hominin fossils often impedes the understanding of which hominins occupied a site. Using targeted enrichment of mitochondrial DNA we show that cave sediments represent a rich source of ancient mammalian DNA that often includes traces of hominin DNA, even at sites and in layers where no hominin remains have been discovered. By automation-assisted screening of numerous sediment samples we detect Neandertal DNA in eight archaeological layers from four caves in Eurasia. In Denisova Cave we retrieved Denisovan DNA in a Middle Pleistocene layer near the bottom of the stratigraphy. Our work opens the possibility to detect the presence of hominin groups at sites and in areas where no skeletal remains are found."
"Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin." C. Darwin
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