Fossil DNA Reveals New Twists in Modern Human Origins

On the outskirts of Beijing, a small limestone mountain named Dragon Bone Hill rises above the surrounding sprawl. Along the northern side, a path leads up to some fenced-off caves that draw , visitors each year, from schoolchildren to grey-haired pensioners. It was here, in , that researchers discovered a nearly complete ancient skull that they determined was roughly half a million years old. Dubbed Peking Man, it was among the earliest human remains ever uncovered, and it helped to convince many researchers that humanity first evolved in Asia. Since then, the central importance of Peking Man has faded. Although modern dating methods put the fossil even earlier — at up to , years old — the specimen has been eclipsed by discoveries in Africa that have yielded much older remains of ancient human relatives. But the tale of Peking Man has haunted generations of Chinese researchers, who have struggled to understand its relationship to modern humans.

Isotopic evidence for the diets of European Neanderthals and early modern humans

The ancient ancestor of modern humans lived from 2 million years ago till about , years ago, possibly even 50, years ago. This suggests it had adapted to walking on two feet in a more open, grassland environment, rather than swinging from tree branch to branch. For instance, one of the most complete fossil skeletons ever found, a 1.

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On the biggest steps in early human evolution scientists are in agreement. The first human ancestors appeared between five million and seven million years ago, probably when some apelike creatures in Africa began to walk habitually on two legs. They were flaking crude stone tools by 2. Then some of them spread from Africa into Asia and Europe after two million years ago. With somewhat less certainty, most scientists think that people who look like us — anatomically modern Homo sapiens — evolved by at least , years ago from ancestors who had remained in Africa.

Their brain had reached today’s size.

Key words: Neanderthals, Anatomically Modern Humans, Subsistence, To date​, the only Paleolithic human bone found in Serbia is a mandible (BH-1) has been supported by a British Academy PDF () and a Small Research Grant.

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They were given the name “Cro-Magnon” because, in , parts of five skeletons were discovered in a rock shelter of that name, located in the famous Dordogne Valley of France. In the 19th century, scientists compared these skeletons to Neanderthal skeletons that had been found earlier in similarly dated sites like Paviland, Wales and a little later at Combe Capelle and Laugerie-Basse in France. They decided that the findings were different enough from the Neanderthals—and from us—to give them a different name.

A century and a half of research since then has led scholars to change their minds.

We estimate this date by measuring the extent of linkage The overlap of Neandertals and modern humans in space and time suggests the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Ramapithecus , fossil primate dating from the Middle and Late Miocene epochs about No significance was attached to those fossils until , when American anthropologist Elwyn Simons of Yale University began studying them and fit the jaw fragments together. On the basis of his observations of the shape of the jaw and of the morphology of the teeth—which he thought were transitional between those of apes and humans—Simons advanced the theory that Ramapithecus represented the first step in the evolutionary divergence of humans from the common hominoid stock that produced modern apes and humans.

The age of the fossils about 14 million years fit well with the then-prevailing notion that the ape-human split had occurred at least 15 million years ago. The first challenge to the theory came in the late s from American biochemist Allan Wilson and American anthropologist Vincent Sarich, who, at the University of California, Berkeley , had been comparing the molecular chemistry of albumins blood proteins among various animal species. They concluded that the ape-human divergence must have occurred much later than Ramapithecus.

It is now thought that the final split took place some 6 million to 8 million years ago. Finally, in , Pilbeam discovered a complete Ramapithecus jaw, not far from the initial fossil find, that had a distinctive V shape and thus differed markedly from the parabolic shape of the jaws of members of the human lineage. He soon repudiated his belief in Ramapithecus as a human ancestor, and the theory was largely abandoned by the early s.

Ancient Mongolian skull is the earliest modern human yet found in the region

Atkinson, Q. Gray, and A. Molecular Biology and Evolution Ayala, F.

where and how anatomically modern humans became fully human in behavior as back the date of symbolic thinking in modern humans — far, far back.” In a report in June in The Proceedings of the National Academy of.

It is taken to include fossils from throughout the Last Glacial Maximum LGM , covering the period of about 48, to 15, years ago 48—15 ka , spanning the Bohunician , Aurignacian , Gravettian , Solutrean and Magdalenian periods. Gregory proposed the subspecies name Homo sapiens cro-magnonensis. In literature published since the late s, the term EEMH is generally preferred over the common name Cro-Magnon, which has no formal taxonomic status, as “it refers neither to a species or subspecies nor to an archaeological phase or culture”.

The description as “modern” is used as contrasting with the ” archaic ” Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis , who lived within Europe during about ka to 37 ka, and who with the arrival of EEMH became extinct or absorbed into their lineage. These mesolithic hunter-gatherers emerge after the end of the LGM c. There appear to have been multiple modern human Homo sapiens immigration and disappearance events on the European continent, whereupon they interacted with the indigenous Neanderthals H.

Why Don’t We Call Them ‘Cro-Magnon’ Anymore?

Louis, MO Author contributions: M. We report here on the direct isotopic evidence for Neanderthal and early modern human diets in Europe. The isotopic evidence indicates that in all cases Neanderthals were top-level carnivores and obtained all, or most, of their dietary protein from large herbivores.

Single amino acid radiocarbon dating of Upper Paleolithic modern humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Vol. , pp.

Comparisons of DNA sequences between Neandertals and present-day humans have shown that Neandertals share more genetic variants with non-Africans than with Africans. This could be due to interbreeding between Neandertals and modern humans when the two groups met subsequent to the emergence of modern humans outside Africa.

However, it could also be due to population structure that antedates the origin of Neandertal ancestors in Africa. We measure the extent of linkage disequilibrium LD in the genomes of present-day Europeans and find that the last gene flow from Neandertals or their relatives into Europeans likely occurred 37,—86, years before the present BP , and most likely 47,—65, years ago. This supports the recent interbreeding hypothesis and suggests that interbreeding may have occurred when modern humans carrying Upper Paleolithic technologies encountered Neandertals as they expanded out of Africa.

One of the key discoveries from the analysis of the Neandertal genome is that Neandertals share more genetic variants with non-Africans than with Africans. This observation is consistent with two hypotheses: interbreeding between Neandertals and modern humans after modern humans emerged out of Africa or population structure in the ancestors of Neandertals and modern humans. These hypotheses make different predictions about the date of last gene exchange between the ancestors of Neandertals and modern non-Africans.

We estimate this date by measuring the extent of linkage disequilibrium LD in the genomes of present-day Europeans and find that the last gene flow from Neandertals into Europeans likely occurred 37,—86, years before the present BP , and most likely 47,—65, years ago. This supports the recent interbreeding hypothesis and suggests that interbreeding occurred when modern humans carrying Upper Paleolithic technologies encountered Neandertals as they expanded out of Africa.

PLoS Genet 8 10 : e Editor: Joshua M. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Ramapithecus

Genomic studies reveal how convoluted the emergence of modern humans was. Humans today are mosaics, our genomes rich tapestries of interwoven ancestries. With every fossil discovered, with every DNA analysis performed, the story gets more complex: We, the sole survivors of the genus Homo , harbor genetic fragments from other closely related but long-extinct lineages.

Modern humans are the products of a sprawling history of shifts and dispersals, separations and reunions — a history characterized by far more diversity, movement and mixture than seemed imaginable a mere decade ago. The events that do get pinned down therefore tend to be relatively recent, starting with the migration of modern humans out of Africa 60, years ago, during which they interacted with hominin relatives like the Neanderthals and Denisovans they met along the way.

wide data from 51 modern humans dating from 45, to 7, years DNA, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Adelaide.

Freshwater fish are an important part of the diet of many peoples around the world, but it has been unclear when fish became an important part of the year-round diet for early humans. A new study by an international team of researchers, including Erik Trinkaus, Ph. Louis, shows it may have happened in China as far back as 40, years ago. Chemical analysis of the protein collagen, using ratios of the isotopes of nitrogen and sulfur in particular, can show whether such fish consumption was an occasional treat or a regular food item.

Michael Richards of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology explains “Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of the human and associated faunal remains indicate a diet high in animal protein, and the high nitrogen isotope values suggest the consumption of freshwater fish. This analysis provides the first direct evidence for the substantial consumption of aquatic resources by early modern humans in China.

Since this occurs before there is consistent evidence for effective fishing gear, the shift to more fish in the diet likely reflects greater pressure from an expanding population at the time of modern human emergence across Eurasia. Materials provided by Washington University in St. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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