jueves, 17 de diciembre de 2015

'Red Deer Cave people' bone points to mysterious species of pre-modern human

1/2. An artist’s reconstruction of a Red Deer Cave man. Photograph: Peter Schouten

University of New South Wales. A thigh bone found in China suggests an ancient species of human thought to be long extinct may have survived until as recently as the end of the last Ice Age.

The 14,000 year old bone—found among the remains of China's enigmatic 'Red Deer Cave people'—has been shown to have features that resemble those of some of the most ancient members of the human genus, (Homo), despite its young age.

The discovery was made by a joint team led by Associate Professor Darren Curnoe from UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales) and Professor Ji Xueping from the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology (YICRA, China).

Their study is published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

The findings result from a detailed study of the partial femur, which had lain unstudied for more than a quarter of a century in a museum in southeastern Yunnan, following its excavation along with other fossilised remains from Maludong ('Red Deer Cave') in 1989.

The investigators found that the thigh bone matched those from species like Homo habilis and early Homo erectus that lived more than 1.5 million years ago but are cautious about its identity.

"Its young age suggests the possibility that primitive-looking humans could have survived until very late in our evolution, but we need to careful as it is just one bone," Professor Ji said. [...] phys.org / Link 2 (Via B&W3)

Actualización: Un hueso olvidado durante 25 años apunta a una especie humana desconocida
En 1989 se desenterraron los restos de los hombres de la Cueva del Ciervo Rojo, en China. 25 años después, el análisis de uno de sus fémures ha revelado que fueron una especie fuera de su época.

Recibieron el poético nombre de hombres de la cueva del ciervo rojo porque el lugar donde se hallaron reveló que cazaban y cocinaban grandes ciervos para comer. Tenían la cara más plana que la nuestra, con una nariz ancha y una mandíbula prominente y sin barbilla, grandes muelas y unas cejas muy marcadas en una cabeza con un cráneo muy grueso y un cerebro de tamaño mediano.

Hallados en la provincia de Yunnan, en China, los fósiles de Maludong fueron desenterrados por arqueólogos chinos a finales de los años 80. Los estudios preliminares determinaron que tenían unos 14.000 años de antigüedad y que seguramente pertenecían a una especie separada de los humanos actuales, que se habría extinguido sin que su genética perviviese hasta nuestros días.

Después de eso, los huesos llegaron a un museo arqueológico local donde quedaron olvidados durante veinticinco años en los que nadie volvió a prestarles demasiada atención. Ahora, una investigación conjunta de científicos chinos y australianos, que se publica hoy en la revista PLOS One, ha revelado que esos restos olvidados durante un cuarto de siglo podrían pertenecer a una nueva especie de humanos premodernos que vivieron en esta región aislada hasta mucho más tarde de lo que se creía, llegando a convivir durante miles de años con otras especies más evolucionadas y cercanas a nosotros...

Genographic Researchers in Australia Uncover Unique Branches of the Human Family Tree

Migration Route for Archaic Haplogroup C-M130. Courtesy of www.genographic.com
Are You Up on Geno Research Down Under?

Genographic Project scientists in Melbourne, Australia have just published their exciting new finds from years of work across the vast southern continent. Detailed in a new paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Dr. Robert Mitchell, student Nano Nagle, and their team of researchers worked with 657 Aboriginal Australian men mapping and dating the genetic diversity of the Australian Y chromosome.

Earlier work in Australia had suggested that Aborigines were descendants from the first migrants to leave Africa some 60 thousand years ago. The hypothesis suggests that when modern humans left Africa they remained in tropical regions, migrating north, then east and south around the Indian Ocean through India, Southeast Asia, eventually reaching Australia. Thus, understanding the origins of Australians is paramount to mapping the earliest human migrations.

The data from Nagle and Mitchell’s work supports an early entry into Australia through New Guinea some 50,000 years ago. However, their findings also show that indigenous New Guineans and Aboriginal Australians had been living isolated from one another for more than 30,000 years. Interestingly, before there was even an Australia and New Guinea, lower ocean levels exposed the seafloor between the two lands creating a supercontinent known as Sahul. [...] National Geographic (blogs)

How Hands Made Humans Human

The Homo naledi hand’s curved fingers mean it was regularly climbing trees, but its wrist, thumb, and palm suggest it was also using tools.  Photo by Peter Schmid and William Harcourt-Smith/Wits University
New insights from the strange species Homo naledi.

It’s easy to forget the marvel of human hands. Musicians’ hands play masterful compositions on the piano; artists’ hands paint timeless works; surgeons’ hands save lives. The rest of us use our miraculous hands to get dressed, pour coffee, and type messages—sometimes entirely with our opposable thumbs.

Like our big brains, our agile hands are part of what makes us human. The construction of nerves, tendons, and bones is a result of millions of years of evolution. But how exactly did they get that way? And when did they emerge on our evolutionary timeline?

The fossilized hand bones of our human ancestors, including those of the recently discovered species Homo naledi, give us some clues. Homo naledi has a strange mix of modern human and not-so-modern features. Among them is a puzzling pair of hands: The wrist, palm, and thumb look like ours, but the long, curved fingers are more apelike. We’ve never seen anything like it.

This mix of features “gives us that smoking gun for how the hand was being used,” Matt Tocheri, a hand expert and paleoanthropologist with the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program, told me. Tocheri co-authored a study published in Nature that analyzed a nearly complete right hand of an adult Homo naledi specimen. Its curved fingers mean it was regularly climbing trees, but its wrist, thumb, and palm suggest it was using tools. [...] slate.com

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