What is Life? The Future of Biology Seminar - 25/8
The first of our kind. How fossils and genes force us to rethink the evolution of Homo sapiens
Philipp Gunz, Dept. of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig
Philipp Gunz works at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, founded by Svante Pääbo. Dr Gunz recently reported in Nature the latest spectacular finding on the earliest Homo Sapiens in Africa, thereby totally rewriting the books on early evolution of man. The abstract of the Nature article can be found below*).
Fossil evidence points to an African origin of Homo sapiens from a group called either H. heidelbergensis or H. rhodesiensis. However, the exact place and time of emergence of H. sapiens remain obscure because the fossil record is scarce and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain. In particular, it is unclear whether the present day ‘modern’ morphology rapidly emerged approximately 200 thousand years ago (ka) among earlier representatives of H. sapiens1 or evolved gradually over the last 400 thousand years2. Here we report newly discovered human fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and interpret the affinities of the hominins from this site with other archaic and recent human groups. We identified a mosaic of features including facial, mandibular and dental morphology that aligns the Jebel Irhoud material with early or recent anatomically modern humans and more primitive neurocranial and endocranial morphology. In combination with an age of 315 ± 34 thousand years (as determined by thermoluminescence dating)3, this evidence makes Jebel Irhoud the oldest and richest African Middle Stone Age hominin site that documents early stages of the H. sapiens clade in which key features of modern morphology were established. Furthermore, it shows that the evolutionary processes behind the emergence of H. sapiens involved the whole African continent.
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New fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco and the pan-African origin of Homo sapiens
https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v546/n7657/full/nature22336.htmlContact person: Ingemar Ernberg