Thursday, August 25, 2011

Keeping up with the Hominin

In less than a week, some of you will be shuffling back to school as Fall session begins. Every new semester, without a doubt, you'll be able to pick out the smart ass in the class. You know, the ones that sit in front of the class and always have their hands up when the professor asks a question (think Hermione Granger). But what if you are the smart ass? Have no fear, you're reading the right post.

"Hominin - the group consisting of modern humans, extinct human species and all our immediate ancestors (including members of the genera Homo, Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Ardipithecus)."

A lot had happened this year with hominin research and some would redefine conventional understandings of this group. Below is a list of new studies that came out this year that I find quite interesting on hominin. Read up so you can show off in class with your knowledge of current hominin research. You know, just so you can make sure that your adjunct is really paying attention of what he/she is doing instead of begrudgingly teaching a class because he/she has to. Or maybe you have a geeky classmate you want to impress. Or if you're like me, you just wanna be the smartest in class because Asian Fail is not an option. So, enjoy ... and if they question you, tell them I said so.

Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus

Paranthropus boisei

From left to right: Comparison of upper jaw, P. boisei and H. sapiens. Photo from PhysOrg.

Homo erectus

  • Stone artifacts, mostly flakes from stone tools, from the Dmanisi site in Georgia (the country, not the state) might suggests that H. erectus evolved outside of Africa. However, no conclusive evidence can be made due to the poor conditions of fossils found near these artifacts. Human ancestors in Eurasia earlier than thought
  • H. erectus reached South Asia earlier than previously thought, between 1.5 to 1 million years ago according to Acheulean tools. Go east, ancient tool makers
An Acheulean hand ax found in India (South Asia) indicates that H. erectus moved to South Asia shortly after the invention of stone tools, around 1.6 million years ago. Photo from ScienceNews.

Homo neanderthalensis

  • Neandertals probably died off because there were too many early humans to compete with. According to a statistical analysis, the P√©rigord region of southwestern France has the highest concentration of Neandertals and early humans. The ratio between Neandertal to early human was 1 to 10. There were just too many humans for Neanderthals to survive
  • Mousterian culture might have lasted longer than previously thought and Neandertals might have spread as far as northern Russia in the mountains of Polar Urals, near the Arctic Circle. Last Neanderthals Near the Arctic Circle?

Homo floresiensis (the Hobbits)

  • The debate whether H. floresiensis is a separate species or just microcephalic H. sapiens continues on. New study shows that the measurement of the Hobbit skull is within the range of microcephalic H. sapiensTaking the measure of a hobbit
From left to right: Homo floresiensis (LB1) and Homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens (early and modern humans)

*Bouchra child, Homo sapiens*

  • Dr. Harold Dribble and his team found the skull of "world's oldest human child" dated around 108,000 years old in Morocco and nicknamed it Bouchra. The boy died when he was 8 years old. This specimen has not been described in any scientific paper so watch out for it soon. World’s Oldest Child Found in Morocco

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