"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.
- Male philopatry and female dispersal in both A. africanus and P. robustus. Is this a strategy to prevent inbreeding and mate choice by females? Ancient Hominid Males Stayed Home While Females Roamed, Study Finds
- Seems like we'll have to re-evaluate P. boisei's nickname, "Nutcracker Man". Recent study showed that P. boisei didn't eat nuts but instead used its big teeth to chew on grasses and sedges. No nuts for 'Nutcracker Man': Early human relative apparently chewed grass instead
From left to right: Comparison of upper jaw, P. boisei and H. sapiens. Photo from PhysOrg.
- H. erectus were the first to controlled fire but it wasn't just used for warmth. New study shows that H. erectus were the first to cook their food (with fire) and process their food with tools. Homo Erectus Processed Food Like Humans, Harvard Scientists Say
- 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
- Findings from Solo River Terrace (SoRT) in Indonesia shows that H. erectus never coexisted with H. sapiens. Using three dating techniques: U-series, Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) and argon-argon, scientists found H. erectus went extinct between 143,000 to 550,000 years ago. H. sapiens are thought to reached Indonesia about 40,000 years ago. Human Ancestor Older Than Previously Thought; Finding Offers New Insights Into Evolution
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.
- Neandertals probably died off because there were too many early humans to compete with. According to a statistical analysis, the Périgord 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?
- Neandertals were predominantly right-handed, according to their teeth. Also, humans have been predominantly right-handed for at least 500,000 years. Neanderthal ancestors were mostly right-handed
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. sapiens. Taking the measure of a hobbit
Homo sapiens (early and modern humans)
- Early humans have been playing hanky panky with Neandertals and possibly the Denisovans. Proof? A toe bone and its DNA. Stone Age toe could redraw human family tree
- A particular segment of our X-chromosome were inherited from Neandertals. This supports the hypothesis that early humans interbred with Neandertal. However, only non-African humans have this segment. Confirmed: All non-African people are part Neanderthal
- Might not be a conscious decision, but apparently early humans that left Africa interbred with Neandertal to protect themselves against diseases. This is probably an unintended result more than an active thought process. First modern humans protected themselves against disease after leaving Africa by 'interbreeding with Neanderthals'
*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