Nova science now. « Les humains sont apparentés aux virus » Prehistoric Archaeology & Human Evolution. Robert Sapolsky: The uniqueness of humans. Svante Paabo: DNA clues to our inner neanderthal. Primates. Pieces of the Human Evolutionary Puzzle: Who Was Australopithecus sediba? Courtesy of Steven Churchill, Duke University.
Few things remain as mysterious—or controversial—as our own history as a species. However, a series of papers released in Science may add another piece to the puzzle: Four papers draw back the curtain on Australopithecus sediba, announced earlier this year, detailing morphological features of the hand, foot, pelvis, and skull that may establish this species within the ancestral lineage of modern humans. In a subterranean cave at Malapa, South Africa, approximately 25 miles (40km) from Johannesburg, the remains of numerous hominins identified as Australopithecus sediba have lain between layers of flowstone—a type of rock that forms in caves, similar in composition to stalagmites and stalactites, except as the name implies, this rock forms in a layer that “flows” across the surface.
How Humans Became Social. Look around and it's impossible to miss the importance of social interactions to human society.
They form the basis of our families, our governments, and even our global economy. But how did we become social in the first place? Researchers have long believed that it was a gradual process, evolving from couples to clans to larger communities. Extinct Genome From Fossil Finger Posted Online. Researchers in Germany today posted the first high-resolution version of an extinct human's genome on the Web site for the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
The goal: to allow colleagues to download the most complete sequence data available for free. A year ago, researchers published the first rough draft of the genome of an archaic girl who lived in Denisova Cave, Siberia, at least 30,000 years ago. In January, Max Planck paleogeneticist Svante Pääbo was at a meeting in Sweden when he realized that researchers in other labs were poring over year-old sequence data that was far less complete than what his colleagues had obtained in the lab in the past year using sensitive, new methods to sequence ancient DNA. "I felt bad knowing that we had this very much better version of the same genome and that it would be a few months before it became available," says Pääbo. Tame Theory: Did Bonobos Domesticate Themselves? Time and again humans have domesticated wild animals, producing tame individuals with softer appearances and more docile temperaments, such as dogs and guinea pigs.
But a new study suggests that one of our primate cousins—the African ape known as the bonobo—did something similar without human involvement. It domesticated itself. Anthropologist Brian Hare of Duke University's Institute for Brain Sciences noticed that the bonobo looks like a domestic version of its closest living relative, the chimpanzee. The bonobo is less aggressive than the chimp, with a smaller skull and shorter canine teeth. Late Bloomers: "New" Genes May Have Played a Role in Human Brain Evolution. Billions of years ago, organic chemicals in the primordial soup somehow organized themselves into the first organisms.
A few years ago scientists found that something similar happens every once in awhile in the cells of all living things: bits of once-quiet stretches of DNA sometimes spontaneously assemble themselves into genes. Such "de novo" genes may go on to play significant roles in the evolution of individual organisms—even humans. But how many are there?
More than anyone thought, it turns out. The most prolific source of new genes in animals, plants, fungi and other life whose cells have nuclei involves the shuffling or duplication of bits of DNA from existing genes. Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
Paleolithic diets have become all the rage, but are they getting our ancestral diet all wrong? Right now, one half of all Americans are on a diet. The other half just gave up on their diets and are on a binge. New Fossils May Redraw Human Ancestry. Gains in DNA Are Speeding Research Into Human Origins. Earliest Homo Erectus Tools Found in Kenya.
Neanderthals. Humans and Neanderthals had sex, but not very often. Tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors spread across the world, having sex with Neanderthals, Denisovans and other groups of ancient humans as they went.
Today, our genes testify to these prehistoric liaisons. Last year, when the Neanderthal genome was finally sequenced, it emerged that everyone outside of African can trace 1 and 4 percent of their DNA from Neanderthals. The discovery was a vindication for some and a surprise to others. For decades, palaeontologists had fought over different visions of the rise of early humans.
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