Tuesday, October 31, 2006

 

Romania: Cave Fossils indicate Humans and Neanderthals may have interbred

From CBC News, Canada: There may be a little Neanderthal in all of us.

That's the conclusion of anthropologists who have re-examined 30,000-year-old fossilized bones from a Romanian cave - bones that languished in a drawer since the 1950s*.

According to the researchers, these early Homo sapien bones show anatomical features that could only have arisen if the adult female in question had Neanderthal ancestors as part of her lineage.

The findings may answer nagging questions: Did modern humans and Neanderthals interbreed on a significant scale? And were the Neanderthals exterminated about 28,000 years ago - as some anthropologists contend - or did they gradually assimilate into the gene pool of people living today?

"From my perspective, the replacement vs. continuity debate that raged through the 1990s is now dead," said the study's American co-author, Erik Trinkaus (homepage), a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis.

* The human bones were first identified at the Pestera Muierii (Cave of the Old Woman) cave in 1952. [Neandertal, Neandertals, Fossil, Fossils, Sapiens]

Continued at "Modern Humans, Neanderthals May Have Interbred"
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Based on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) paper:

Early modern humans from the Pestera Muierii, Baia de Fier, Romania

Abstract

The early modern human remains from the Pestera Muierii, Romania have been directly dated to {approx}30,000 radiocarbon years before present ({approx}30 ka 14C BP) ({approx}35 ka cal BP) ("calendrical" age; based on CalPal 2005) and augment a small sample of securely dated, European, pre-28 ka 14C BP ({approx}32.5 ka cal BP) modern human remains. The Muierii fossils exhibit a suite of derived modern human features, including reduced maxillae with pronounced canine fossae, a narrow nasal aperture, small superciliary arches, an arched parietal curve, zygomatic arch above the auditory porous, laterally bulbous mastoid processes, narrow mandibular corpus, reduced anterior dentition, ventral-to-bisulcate scapular axillary border, and planoconcave tibial and fibular diaphyseal surfaces. However, these traits co-occur with contextually archaic and/or Neandertal features, including a moderately low frontal arc, a large occipital bun, a high coronoid process and asymmetrical mandibular notch, a more medial mandibular notch crest to condylar position, and a narrow scapular glenoid fossa. As with other European early modern humans, the mosaic of modern human and archaic/Neandertal features, relative to their potential Middle Paleolithic ancestral populations, indicates considerable Neandertal/modern human admixture. Moreover, the narrow scapular glenoid fossa suggests habitual movements at variance with the associated projectile technology. The reproductive and scapulohumeral functional inferences emphasize the subtle natures of behavioral contrasts between Neandertals and these early modern Europeans.

Also see Trinkaus' open access paper "An early modern human from the Pestera cu Oase, Romania"

Featured Book: "Neanderthals Revisited: New Approaches and Perspectives (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology)" (Amazon UK | US)

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News Report also covered by Kazinform (Kazakhstan)

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