Saturday, September 09, 2006

 

Modern Humans, not Neandertals, may be evolution's 'odd man out'

Neandertal Neanderthal Anthropology Skull Trinkaus Traits Anatomy (Evolution Research: John Latter / Jorolat)Could it be that in the great evolutionary 'family tree,' it is we Modern Humans, not the brow-ridged, large-nosed Neandertals, who are the odd uncle out?

New research published in the August, 2006 journal Current Anthropology by Neandertal and early modern human expert, Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, suggests that rather than the standard straight line from chimps to early humans to us with Neandertals off on a side graph, it's equally valid, perhaps more valid based on the fossil record, that the line should extend from the common ancestor to the Neandertals, and Modern Humans should be the branch off that. [Evolution News, Neanderthals, Neanderthal, Chimpanzees]

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Based On "Modern Human versus Neandertal Evolutionary Distinctiveness"

Abstract

Considerations of morphological variation among later Pleistocene human groups have focused principally on the distinctiveness of the Neandertals of western Eurasia relative to their predecessors and to penecontemporaneous and recent modern humans. In this discussion, there has been a dearth of attention of the degree to which modern humans are derived relative to earlier members of the genus Homo. Of 75 cranial, mandibular, dental, axial, and appendicular traits in which the Neandertals and/or modern humans are derived relative to Early and Middle Pleistocene Homo, approximately one-quarter are shared among Neandertals and modern humans, a similar percentage largely unique to the Neandertals, and about half largely unique to modern humans. The results are similar whether the Neandertals are compared with the earliest modern humans or with their Late Pleistocene and more recent modern human successors. Even though these figures could shift modestly through variation in trait selection and/or as a result of a more complete earlier Pleistocene Homo fossil record, it is apparent that modern humans are morphologically more derived than the Neandertals. Our focus should therefore be at least as much on the evolutionary biology of early and recent modern humans as on that of the Neandertals.

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