WASHINGTON (Aug. 3, 2015) – A new analysis of early hominin body size evolution led by a George Washington University professor suggests that the earliest members of the Homo genus (which includes our species, Homo sapiens) may not have been larger than earlier hominin species. As almost all of the hows and whys of human evolution are tied to estimates of body size at particular points in time, these results challenge numerous adaptive hypotheses based around the idea that the origins of Homo coincided with, or were driven by, an increase in body mass.
In “Body Mass Estimates of Hominin Fossils and the Evolution of Human Body Size,” published online in the Journal of Human Evolution, Mark Grabowski assistant research professor in the GW Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, and his co-authors provide the most comprehensive set of body mass estimates, species averages and species averages by sex for fossil hominins to date.
Produced using cutting-edge methodology and the largest sample of individual early hominin fossils available, analysis of their results shows that early hominins were generally smaller than previously thought and that the increase in body size occurred not between australopiths and the origins of Homo but later with H. erectus (the first species widely found outside of Africa).
The first human inhabitants of the Americas lived in a time thousands of years before the first written records, and the story of their transcontinental migration is the subject of ongoing debate and active research. A study by multi-institutional, international collaboration of researchers, published this week in Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3884) presents strong evidence, gleaned from ancient and modern DNA samples, that the ancestry of all Native Americans can be traced back to a single migration event, with subsequent gene flow between some groups and populations that are currently located in East Asia and Australia.
Associate Professor of Anthropology Ripan Malhi was a senior coauthor among an international team of researchers, who clarified the history of early migration to the Americas with an extensive sequencing study.
The study was led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen; more than 80 researchers contributed sequence data and analyses of key ancient individuals, and from living individuals in the Americas and possible ancestral regions, including Siberia and Oceania. This breadth of sampling increased the power of the study to distinguish between alternative hypotheses for the timing and pattern of migration events. Ripan Malhi, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois and one of the senior coauthors, focused on genome sequence obtained from 6,000-year old skeletal remains found on Lucy Islands in British Columbia, Canada, and modern descendants of those individuals.
These skirmishes led to more expansive military campaigns, settlement, and ultimately conquest of large swathes of the British Isles. But Dr Steve Ashby, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, wanted to explore the social justifications for this spike in aggressive activity.
Previous research has considered environmental, demographic, technological and political drivers, as well as the palpable lure of silver and slave and why these forms of wealth became important at this stage.
Dr Ashby said: “I wanted to try to discover what would make a young chieftain invest in the time and resources for such a risky venture. And what were the motives of his crew?”
MIAMI – New research reveals that some of the earliest civilizations in the Middle East and the Fertile Crescent may have been affected by abrupt climate change. These findings show that while socio-economic factors were traditionally considered to shape ancient human societies in this region, the influence of abrupt climate change should not be underestimated.
A team of international scientists led by researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science found that during the first half of the last interglacial period known as the Holocene epoch, which began about 12,000 years ago and continues today, the Middle East most likely experienced wetter conditions in comparison with the last 6,000 years, when the conditions were drier and dustier.
Ali Pourmand (left) and Ph.D. candidate Arash Sharifi visually inspect the physical properties of a sediment core collected from NW Iran. This meter-long core recorded the environmental condition of the region for the past 2000 years. Credit: Diana Udel, UM Rosenstiel School Communications Office
Rapid phases of warming climate played a greater role in the extinction of megafauna in the Late Pleistocene than did human activity, a new study shows. The study helps to inform the debate about what killed off megafaunal species (or animals over 100 pounds) during the last glacial period – a subject that is highly debated, with some scientists pointing to human hunting and land alteration, and others to climate change.
Progress on the debate has been hindered by reliance on fossil evidence in lieu of studies of ancient DNA, which could shed more light on the timing of major animal population changes, like migration or extinction events. Here, to parse out the roles for human activity or changing climate in the Late Pleistocene megafaunal extinction, Alan Cooper and colleagues used a combination of ancient DNA and detailed paleoclimate data.
They evaluated DNA from megafaunal species, looking back over more than 50,000 years of DNA records for extinction events. The researchers compared information on megafauna extinctions to records of severe climate events in the Late Pleistocene obtained through Greenland ice cores and other sources.
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International collaboration uncovers proof of earliest small-scale agricultural cultivation
Until now, researchers believed farming was “invented” some 12,000 years ago in the Cradle of Civilization — Iraq, the Levant, parts of Turkey and Iran — an area that was home to some of the earliest known human civilizations. A new discovery by an international collaboration of researchers from Tel Aviv University, Harvard University, Bar-Ilan University, and the University of Haifa offers the first evidence that trial plant cultivation began far earlier — some 23,000 years ago.
The study focuses on the discovery of the first weed species at the site of a sedentary human camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was published in PLOS ONE and led by Prof. Ehud Weiss of Bar-Ilan University in collaboration with Prof. Marcelo Sternberg of the Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants at TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Prof. Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University, among other colleagues.
The original Americans came from Siberia in a single wave no more than 23,000 years ago, at the height of the last Ice Age, and apparently hung out in the north – perhaps for thousands of years – before spreading in two distinct populations throughout North and South America, according to a new genomic analysis.
The findings, which will be reported in the July 24 issue of Science, confirm the most popular theory of the peopling of the Americas, but throws cold water on others, including the notion of an earlier wave of people from East Asia prior to the last glacial maximum, and the idea that multiple independent waves produced the major subgroups of Native Americans we see today, as opposed to diversification in the Americas.
This Ice Age migration over a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska is distinct from the arrival of the Inuit and Eskimo, who were latecomers, spreading throughout the Arctic beginning about 5,500 years ago.
Antrocom: Online Journal of Anthropology invites proposals written regarding cultural, linguistic, and physical anthropology, and archaeology. Interdisciplinary papers from other fields that focus on a sociocultural topic are also welcome. Submissions may include papers written for classes or independently, as well as book reviews and other scholarly work.
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Antrocom: Online Journal of Anthropology accetta proposte riguardanti antropologia culturale, linguistica e fisica e archeologia. Documenti interdisciplinari provenienti da altri campi che si concentrino su un argomento socio-culturale sono i benvenuti. I documenti presentati possono includere lezioni preparate per le classi o in modo indipendente, così come recensioni di libri e altro lavoro accademico.
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Antrocom: Online Journal of Anthropology is an on-line review concerning Anthropology, open both to cultural and to physical anthropology, and to the correlated disciplines. The review was first issued in March 2005 from within the Community of Anthropos and is edited by the Antrocom Association.
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