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16 Dec 2018 at 01:40
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Bibliography on: Neanderthals


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Wikipedia: Neanderthals or Neandertals — named for the Neandertal region in Germany — were a species or subspecies of archaic human, in the genus Homo. Neanderthals became extinct around 40,000 years ago. They were closely related to modern humans, sharing 99.7% of DNA. Remains left by Neanderthals include bone and stone tools, which are found in Eurasia, from Western Europe to Central and Northern Asia. Neanderthals are generally classified by paleontologists as the species Homo neanderthalensis, having separated from the Homo sapiens lineage 600,000 years ago, but a minority consider them to be a subspecies of Homo sapiens (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis). Several cultural assemblages have been linked to the Neanderthals in Europe. The earliest, the Mousterian stone tool culture, dates to about 160,000 years ago. Late Mousterian artifacts were found in Gorham's Cave on the south-facing coast of Gibraltar. Compared to Homo sapiens, Neanderthals had a lower surface-to-volume ratio, with shorter legs and a bigger body, in conformance with Bergmann's rule, as an energy-loss reduction adaptation to life in a high-latitude (i.e. seasonally cold) climate. Their average cranial capacity was notably larger than typical for modern humans: 1600 cm3 vs. 1250-1400 cm3. The Neanderthal genome project published papers in 2010 and 2014 stating that Neanderthals contributed to the DNA of modern humans, including most humans outside sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a few populations in sub-Saharan Africa, through interbreeding, likely between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.

Created with PubMed® Query: Neanderthal OR Neandertal NOT pmcbook NOT ispreviousversion

Citations The Papers (from PubMed®)

RevDate: 2018-12-14

Banerjee N, Polushina T, Bettella F, et al (2018)

Analysis of differentially methylated regions in great apes and extinct hominids provides support for the evolutionary hypothesis of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia research pii:S0920-9964(18)30676-5 [Epub ahead of print].

INTRODUCTION: The persistence of schizophrenia in human populations separated by geography and time led to the evolutionary hypothesis that proposes schizophrenia as a by-product of the higher cognitive abilities of modern humans. To explore this hypothesis, we used here an evolutionary epigenetics approach building on differentially methylated regions (DMRs) of the genome.

METHODS: We implemented a polygenic enrichment testing pipeline using the summary statistics of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of schizophrenia and 12 other phenotypes. We investigated the enrichment of association of these traits across genomic regions with variable methylation between modern humans and great apes (orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas; great ape DMRs) and between modern humans and recently extinct hominids (Neanderthals and Denisovans; hominid DMRs).

RESULTS: Regions that are hypo-methylated in humans compared to great apes show enrichment of association with schizophrenia only if the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region is included. With the MHC region removed from the analysis, only a modest enrichment for SNPs of low effect persists. The INRICH pipeline confirms this finding after rigorous permutation and bootstrapping procedures.

CONCLUSION: The analyses of regions with differential methylation changes in humans and great apes do not provide compelling evidence of enrichment of association with schizophrenia, in contrast to our previous findings on more recent methylation differences between modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans. Our results further support the evolutionary hypothesis of schizophrenia and indicate that the origin of some of the genetic susceptibility factors of schizophrenia may lie in recent human evolution.

RevDate: 2018-12-11
CmpDate: 2018-12-11

Hardy K, Buckley S, L Copeland (2018)

Pleistocene dental calculus: Recovering information on Paleolithic food items, medicines, paleoenvironment and microbes.

Evolutionary anthropology, 27(5):234-246.

Dental calculus is now widely used to recover information on items ingested in the past. It is particularly valuable in the earlier Paleolithic, where recovered data may represent the only evidence for plant use. Several recovery methods are used and each one produces different results. Biomolecular markers and genetic material recovered from dental calculus is providing new data on identifiable dietary and medicinal items and human microbial communities. The recovery of microfossils, in particular, starch granules, has triggered a new awareness of the role of plants in the diet throughout the Paleolithic. However, the minute amount of material recovered has little relationship with food eaten during a person's life, while salivary amylase breaks down cooked starch. Therefore, broader dietary interpretations and detection of cooked food are problematic. The study of ancient dental calculus holds great potential to recover information about past lives, within realistic parameters.

RevDate: 2018-12-06

Bruner E (2018)

Human paleoneurology: shaping cortical evolution in fossil hominids.

The Journal of comparative neurology [Epub ahead of print].

Evolutionary neuroanatomy must integrate two different sources of information, namely from fossil and from living species. Fossils supply information concerning the process of evolution, while living species supply information on the product of evolution. Unfortunately, the fossil record is partial and fragmented, and often cannot support validations for specific evolutionary hypotheses. Living species can provide more comprehensive indications, but they do not represent ancestral groups or primitive forms. Macaques or chimpanzees are frequently used as proxy for human ancestral conditions, despite the fact they are divergent and specialized lineages, with their own biological features. Similarly, in paleoanthropology independent lineages (such as Neanderthals) should not be confused with ancestral modern human stages. In this comparative framework, paleoneurology deals with the analysis of the endocranial cavity in extinct species, in order to make inferences on brain evolution. A main target of this field is to distinguish the endocranial variations due to brain changes, from those due to cranial constraints. Digital anatomy and computed morphometrics have provided major advances in this field. However, brains and endocasts can be hard to analyze with geometrical models, because of uncertainties due to the localization of cortical landmarks and boundaries. The study of the evolution of the parietal cortex supplies an interesting case-study in which paleontological and neontological data can integrate and test evolutionary hypotheses based on multiple sources of evidence. The relationships with visuospatial functions and brain-body-tool integration stress further that the analysis of the cognitive system should go beyond the neural boundaries of the brain. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

RevDate: 2018-11-27

Mirazón Lahr M (2018)

The not-so-dangerous lives of Neanderthals.

Nature, 563(7733):634-636.

RevDate: 2018-11-27

Villanea FA, JG Schraiber (2018)

Multiple episodes of interbreeding between Neanderthal and modern humans.

Nature ecology & evolution pii:10.1038/s41559-018-0735-8 [Epub ahead of print].

Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans overlapped geographically for a period of over 30,000 years following human migration out of Africa. During this period, Neanderthals and humans interbred, as evidenced by Neanderthal portions of the genome carried by non-African individuals today. A key observation is that the proportion of Neanderthal ancestry is ~12-20% higher in East Asian individuals relative to European individuals. Here, we explore various demographic models that could explain this observation. These include distinguishing between a single admixture event and multiple Neanderthal contributions to either population, and the hypothesis that reduced Neanderthal ancestry in modern Europeans resulted from more recent admixture with a ghost population that lacked a Neanderthal ancestry component (the 'dilution' hypothesis). To summarize the asymmetric pattern of Neanderthal allele frequencies, we compiled the joint fragment frequency spectrum of European and East Asian Neanderthal fragments and compared it with both analytical theory and data simulated under various models of admixture. Using maximum-likelihood and machine learning, we found that a simple model of a single admixture did not fit the empirical data, and instead favour a model of multiple episodes of gene flow into both European and East Asian populations. These findings indicate a longer-term, more complex interaction between humans and Neanderthals than was previously appreciated.

RevDate: 2018-11-21

Becam G, T Chevalier (2018)

Neandertal features of the deciduous and permanent teeth from Portel-Ouest Cave (Ariège, France).

American journal of physical anthropology [Epub ahead of print].

OBJECTIVES: We describe 14 unpublished and nine published teeth from the Mousterian level of Portel-Ouest (Ariège, France), dated to 44 ka. In a comparative context, we explore the taxonomical affinities of those teeth with Neandertals and modern humans which are both known to exist at that time. We further make some paleobiological inferences about this human group.

METHODS: The comparative analysis of Neandertals and modern humans is based on nonmetric traits at the outer enamel surface and the enamel-dentine junction, crown diameters and three-dimensional (3D) enamel thickness measurements of lower permanent teeth. The crown and roots are explored in detail based on the μCT-scan data to identify the multiple criteria involved in the paleobiological approach.

RESULTS: Nonmetric traits and 3D enamel thickness tend to be more similar to Neandertals than modern humans, notably for C1 , P4 , and M2 (included in all analyses) as well as volume of the pulp cavity in roots of the anterior permanent teeth. The Portel-Ouest sample corresponds to a minimum of seven juveniles, one or two adolescents and one adult, which exhibit recurrent linear enamel hypoplasia (up to five events for one individual), the torsiversion of one anterior tooth and irregular oblique wear in some anterior deciduous teeth.

DISCUSSION: This morphological study confirms that the remains from Portel-Ouest are Neandertals, associated with a Mousterian complex. Furthermore, we found the expected pattern of mortality and stress for a Neandertal group, that is, various age categories and developmental defects (nonexclusive to Neandertals), while adults are underrepresented and juveniles are overrepresented. Further excavations would contribute finding new remains and maybe complete this demographic profile.

RevDate: 2018-11-29

Beier J, Anthes N, Wahl J, et al (2018)

Similar cranial trauma prevalence among Neanderthals and Upper Palaeolithic modern humans.

Nature, 563(7733):686-690.

Neanderthals are commonly depicted as leading dangerous lives and permanently struggling for survival. This view largely relies on the high incidences of trauma that have been reported1,2 and have variously been attributed to violent social behaviour3,4, highly mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyles2 or attacks by carnivores5. The described Neanderthal pattern of predominantly cranial injuries is further thought to reflect violent encounters with large prey mammals, resulting from the use of close-range hunting weapons1. These interpretations directly shape our understanding of Neanderthal lifestyles, health and hunting abilities, yet mainly rest on descriptive, case-based evidence. Quantitative, population-level studies of traumatic injuries are rare. Here we reassess the hypothesis of higher cranial trauma prevalence among Neanderthals using a population-level approach-accounting for preservation bias and other contextual data-and an exhaustive fossil database. We show that Neanderthals and early Upper Palaeolithic anatomically modern humans exhibit similar overall incidences of cranial trauma, which are higher for males in both taxa, consistent with patterns shown by later populations of modern humans. Beyond these similarities, we observed species-specific, age-related variation in trauma prevalence, suggesting that there were differences in the timing of injuries during life or that there was a differential mortality risk of trauma survivors in the two groups. Finally, our results highlight the importance of preservation bias in studies of trauma prevalence.

RevDate: 2018-11-26
CmpDate: 2018-11-26

Michalak P, L Kang (2018)

Unique divergence of the breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) gene in Neanderthals.

Hereditas, 155:34 pii:73.

Unique divergence of the BRCA2, a tumor suppressor gene, in Neanderthals relative to other primates, including modern humans, is highlighted. This divergence with potentially pathogenic consequences raises a question about cancer susceptibility in the archaic species that was replaced by modern humans about 40,000 years ago.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Smith TM, Austin C, Green DR, et al (2018)

Wintertime stress, nursing, and lead exposure in Neanderthal children.

Science advances, 4(10):eaau9483 pii:aau9483.

Scholars endeavor to understand the relationship between human evolution and climate change. This is particularly germane for Neanderthals, who survived extreme Eurasian environmental variation and glaciations, mysteriously going extinct during a cool interglacial stage. Here, we integrate weekly records of climate, tooth growth, and metal exposure in two Neanderthals and one modern human from southeastern France. The Neanderthals inhabited cooler and more seasonal periods than the modern human, evincing childhood developmental stress during wintertime. In one instance, this stress may have included skeletal mobilization of elemental stores and weight loss; this individual was born in the spring and appears to have weaned 2.5 years later. Both Neanderthals were exposed to lead at least twice during the deep winter and/or early spring. This multidisciplinary approach elucidates direct relationships between ancient environments and hominin paleobiology.

RevDate: 2018-11-09

Kamnikar KR, Herrmann NP, AM Plemons (2018)

New Approaches to Juvenile Age Estimation in Forensics: Application of Transition Analysis via the Shackelford et al. Method to a Diverse Modern Subadult Sample.

Human biology, 90(1):11-30.

Dental development is one of the most widely utilized and accurate methods available for estimating age in subadult skeletal remains. The timing of tooth growth and development is regulated by genetics and less affected by external factors, allowing reliable estimates of chronological age. Traditional methodology focuses on comparing tooth developmental scores to corresponding age charts. Using the Moorrees, Fanning, and Hunt (MFH) developmental scores, Shackelford and colleagues embed the dental development method in a statistical framework based on transition analysis. They generated numerical parameters underlining each "stage" and age-at-death distribution and applied them to fossil hominins and Neanderthals with limited application to modern humans. We use this same method on a subadult test sample (n = 201), representing modern individuals that may become part of the forensic record. We assess the probability coverage of the Shackelford et al. method derived from MFH standards as it applies to all available dentition. Results indicate promise: the age range at 90% and 95% confidence levels includes the chronological age of almost every individual tested. The maximum likelihood age estimates underestimate age by 0.5-2.5 years for individuals 0-15 years of age and by >2.5 years for individuals 16-18 years of age, as previously shown. In an attempt to refine the method, we adjusted the numerical parameters underlying the stages for developing teeth based on a combined modern reference sample (n = 1,964) and tested these revised parameters using the same test sample. The estimated ages from the modified method differ from the original Shackelford et al. methodology by underestimating age to a lesser degree. The modified method does include mean age-at-attainment values for earlier stages of several teeth, allowing for the calculation of narrower confidence intervals. While this study highlights areas of future research in refining dental developmental aging by transition analysis, it also demonstrates that the Shackelford et al. method is applicable and accurate when aging modern subadults in forensic work.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Akhtari FS, Havener TM, Fukudo M, et al (2018)

The influence of Neanderthal alleles on cytotoxic response.

PeerJ, 6:e5691 pii:5691.

Various studies have shown that people of Eurasian origin contain traces of DNA inherited from interbreeding with Neanderthals. Recent studies have demonstrated that these Neanderthal variants influence a range of clinically important traits and diseases. Thus, understanding the genetic factors responsible for the variability in individual response to drug or chemical exposure is a key goal of pharmacogenomics and toxicogenomics, as dose responses are clinically and epidemiologically important traits. It is well established that ethnic and racial differences are important in dose response traits, but to our knowledge the influence of Neanderthal ancestry on response to xenobiotics is unknown. Towards this aim, we examined if Neanderthal ancestry plays a role in cytotoxic response to anti-cancer drugs and toxic environmental chemicals. We identified common Neanderthal variants in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) derived from the globally diverse 1000 Genomes Project and Caucasian cell lines from the Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute. We analyzed the effects of these Neanderthal alleles on cytotoxic response to 29 anti-cancer drugs and 179 environmental chemicals at varying concentrations using genome-wide data. We identified and replicated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from these association results, including a SNP in the SNORD-113 cluster. Our results also show that the Neanderthal alleles cumulatively lead to increased sensitivity to both the anti-cancer drugs and the environmental chemicals. Our results demonstrate the influence of Neanderthal ancestry-informative markers on cytotoxic response. These results could be important in identifying biomarkers for personalized medicine or in dissecting the underlying etiology of dose response traits.

RevDate: 2018-11-20

Chen Z, DeSalle R, Schiffman M, et al (2018)

Niche adaptation and viral transmission of human papillomaviruses from archaic hominins to modern humans.

PLoS pathogens, 14(11):e1007352 pii:PPATHOGENS-D-18-01223.

Recent discoveries on the origins of modern humans from multiple archaic hominin populations and the diversity of human papillomaviruses (HPVs) suggest a complex scenario of virus-host evolution. To evaluate the origin of HPV pathogenesis, we estimated the phylogeny, timing, and dispersal of HPV16 variants using a Bayesian Markov Chain Monte Carlo framework. To increase precision, we identified and characterized non-human primate papillomaviruses from New and Old World monkeys to set molecular clock models. We demonstrate specific host niche adaptation of primate papillomaviruses with subsequent coevolution with their primate hosts for at least 40 million years. Analyses of 212 HPV16 complete genomes and 3582 partial sequences estimated ancient divergence of HPV16 variants (between A and BCD lineages) from their most recent common ancestors around half a million years ago, roughly coinciding with the timing of the split between archaic Neanderthals and modern Homo sapiens, and nearly three times longer than divergence times of modern Homo sapiens. HPV16 A lineage variants were significantly underrepresented in present African populations, whereas the A sublineages were highly prevalent in European (A1-3) and Asian (A4) populations, indicative of viral sexual transmission from Neanderthals to modern non-African humans through multiple interbreeding events in the past 80 thousand years. Remarkably, the human leukocyte antigen B*07:02 and C*07:02 alleles associated with increased risk in cervix cancer represent introgressed regions from Neanderthals in present-day Eurasians. The archaic hominin-host-switch model was also supported by other HPV variants. Niche adaptation and virus-host codivergence appear to influence the pathogenesis of papillomaviruses.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Gómez-Olivencia A, Barash A, García-Martínez D, et al (2018)

3D virtual reconstruction of the Kebara 2 Neandertal thorax.

Nature communications, 9(1):4387 pii:10.1038/s41467-018-06803-z.

The size and shape of the Neandertal thorax has been debated since the first discovery of Neandertal ribs more than 150 years ago, with workers proposing different interpretations ranging from a Neandertal thoracic morphology that is indistinguishable from modern humans, to one that was significantly different from them. Here, we provide a virtual 3D reconstruction of the thorax of the adult male Kebara 2 Neandertal. Our analyses reveal that the Kebara 2 thorax is significantly different but not larger from that of modern humans, wider in its lower segment, which parallels his wide bi-iliac breadth, and with a more invaginated vertebral column. Kinematic analyses show that rib cages that are wider in their lower segment produce greater overall size increments (respiratory capacity) during inspiration. We hypothesize that Neandertals may have had a subtle, but somewhat different breathing mechanism compared to modern humans.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

de Filippo C, Meyer M, K Prüfer (2018)

Quantifying and reducing spurious alignments for the analysis of ultra-short ancient DNA sequences.

BMC biology, 16(1):121 pii:10.1186/s12915-018-0581-9.

BACKGROUND: The study of ancient DNA is hampered by degradation, resulting in short DNA fragments. Advances in laboratory methods have made it possible to retrieve short DNA fragments, thereby improving access to DNA preserved in highly degraded, ancient material. However, such material contains large amounts of microbial contamination in addition to DNA fragments from the ancient organism. The resulting mixture of sequences constitutes a challenge for computational analysis, since microbial sequences are hard to distinguish from the ancient sequences of interest, especially when they are short.

RESULTS: Here, we develop a method to quantify spurious alignments based on the presence or absence of rare variants. We find that spurious alignments are enriched for mismatches and insertion/deletion differences and lack substitution patterns typical of ancient DNA. The impact of spurious alignments can be reduced by filtering on these features and by imposing a sample-specific minimum length cutoff. We apply this approach to sequences from four ~ 430,000-year-old Sima de los Huesos hominin remains, which contain particularly short DNA fragments, and increase the amount of usable sequence data by 17-150%. This allows us to place a third specimen from the site on the Neandertal lineage.

CONCLUSIONS: Our method maximizes the sequence data amenable to genetic analysis from highly degraded ancient material and avoids pitfalls that are associated with the analysis of ultra-short DNA sequences.

RevDate: 2018-10-23

Pablos A, Gómez-Olivencia A, JL Arsuaga (2018)

A Neandertal foot phalanx from the Galería de las Estatuas site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain).

American journal of physical anthropology [Epub ahead of print].

OBJECTIVES: The Galería de las Estatuas site (GE), a new Mousterian site at the Sierra de Atapuerca site complex (Spain), has revealed a Late Pleistocene detrital sequence with at least five lithostratigraphic units. These units have yielded evidence of Mousterian occupations with sporadic carnivore activity, and have provided datings of 80-112 ka BP using single-grain optically stimulated luminescence. This places the sequence at the end of MIS5 and beginning of the MIS4. We described here a complete adult human distal foot phalanx (GE-1573) recovered during the 2017 field season in the interface between lithostratigraphic units 3 and 4 (107-112 ka BP) in the GE-I test pit.

MATERIALS AND METHOD: This phalanx (GE-1573) probably corresponds to the fifth toe from the right side due to the medial deviation of the distal tuberosity. We compared the metric variables of this phalanx to several fossil and recent Homo samples.

RESULTS: Neandertals display foot phalanges that are broader and more robust than those of recent humans. Despite the scarcity of well-identified distal phalanges in the Homo fossil record, the GE-1573 phalanx is broad, long and robust when compared with recent and Upper Paleolithic modern humans.

DISCUSSION: These traits, which align the GE-1573 foot phalanx with the Neandertal morphology, are consistent with the stratigraphic context, likely corresponding to one of the oldest Late Neandertals found inland on the Iberian Peninsula. Additionally, it provides the first evidence of a Neandertal human fossil in a stratigraphic context in the Sierra de Atapuerca.

RevDate: 2018-10-23

Stelzer S, Neubauer S, Hublin JJ, et al (2018)

Morphological trends in arcade shape and size in Middle Pleistocene Homo.

American journal of physical anthropology [Epub ahead of print].

OBJECTIVES: Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins, often summarized as Homo heidelbergensis sensu lato, are difficult to interpret due to a fragmentary fossil record and ambiguous combinations of primitive and derived characters. Here, we focus on one aspect of facial shape and analyze shape variation of the dental arcades of these fossils together with other Homo individuals.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Three-dimensional landmark data were collected on computed tomographic scans and surface scans of Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins (n = 8), Homo erectus s.l. (n = 4), Homo antecessor (n = 1), Homo neanderthalensis (n = 13), recent (n = 52) and fossil (n = 19) Homo sapiens. To increase sample size, we used multiple multivariate regression to reconstruct complementary arches for isolated mandibles, and explored size and shape differences among maxillary arcades.

RESULTS: The shape of the dental arcade in H. erectus s.l. and H. antecessor differs markedly from both Neanderthals and H. sapiens. The latter two show subtle but consistent differences in arcade length and width. Shape variation among Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins does not exceed the amount of variation of other species, but includes individuals with more primitive and more derived morphology, all more similar to Neanderthals and H. sapiens than to H. erectus s.l.

DISCUSSION: Although our results cannot reject the hypothesis that the Middle Pleistocene fossil hominins belong to a single species, their shape variation comprises a more primitive morph that represents a likely candidate for the shape of the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and H. sapiens, and a more derived morph resembling Neanderthals. The arcade shape difference between Neanderthals and H. sapiens might be related to different ways to withstand mechanical stress.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Cortés-Sánchez M, Riquelme-Cantal JA, Simón-Vallejo MD, et al (2018)

Pre-Solutrean rock art in southernmost Europe: Evidence from Las Ventanas Cave (Andalusia, Spain).

PloS one, 13(10):e0204651 pii:PONE-D-18-04036.

The south of Iberia conserves an important group of Palaeolithic rock art sites. The graphisms have been mostly attributed to the Solutrean and Magdalenian periods, while the possibility that older remains exist has provoked extensive debate. This circumstance has been linked to both the cited periods, until recently, due to the transition from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic in the extreme southwest of Europe as well as the non-existence of some of the early periods of Palaeolithic art documented in northern Iberia. This study presents the results of interdisciplinary research conducted in Las Ventanas Cave. These results enabled us to identify a new Palaeolithic rock art site. The technical, stylistic and temporal traits point to certain similarities with the range of exterior deep engravings in Cantabrian Palaeolithic rock art. Ventanas appears to corroborate the age attributed to those kinds of graphic expression and points to the early arrival of the Upper Palaeolithic in the south of Iberia. Importantly, the results provide information on the pre-Solutrean date attributed to trilinear hind figures. These findings challenge the supposed Neanderthal survival idea at one of the main late Middle Palaeolithic southern Iberian sites (Carigüela) and, due to the parallels between them and an engraving attributed to this period in Gibraltar, it raises the possibility of interaction between modern humans and Neanderthals in the extreme southwest of Europe.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Williams AC, LJ Hill (2018)

Nicotinamide's Ups and Downs: Consequences for Fertility, Development, Longevity and Diseases of Poverty and Affluence.

International journal of tryptophan research : IJTR, 11:1178646918802289 pii:10.1177_1178646918802289.

To further explore the role of dietary nicotinamide in both brain development and diseases, particularly those of ageing. Articles cover neurodegenerative disease and cancer. Also discussed are the effects of nicotinamide, contained in meat and supplements and derived from symbionts, on the major transitions of disease and fertility from ancient times up to the present day. A key role for the tryptophan - NAD 'de novo' and immune tolerance pathway are discussed at length in the context of fertility and longevity and the transitions from immune paresis to Treg-mediated immune tolerance and then finally to intolerance and their associated diseases. Abstract: Nicotinamide in human evolution increased cognitive power in a positive feedback loop originally involving hunting. As the precursor to metabolic master molecule NAD it is, as vitamin B3, vital for health. Paradoxically, a lower dose on a diverse plant then cereal-based diet fuelled population booms from the Mesolithic onwards, by upping immune tolerance of the foetus. Increased tolerance of risky symbionts, whether in the gut or TB, that excrete nicotinamide co-evolved as buffers for when diet was inadequate. High biological fertility, despite disease trade-offs, avoided the extinction of Homo sapiens and heralded the dawn of a conscious, creative, and pro-fertility culture. Nicotinamide equity now would stabilise populations and prevent NAD-based diseases of poverty and affluence.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Gravina B, Bachellerie F, Caux S, et al (2018)

No Reliable Evidence for a Neanderthal-Châtelperronian Association at La Roche-à-Pierrot, Saint-Césaire.

Scientific reports, 8(1):15134 pii:10.1038/s41598-018-33084-9.

The demise of Neanderthals and their interaction with dispersing anatomically modern human populations remain some of the most contentious issues in palaeoanthropology. The Châtelperronian, now generally recognized as the first genuine Upper Palaeolithic industry in Western Europe and commonly attributed to the Neanderthals, plays a pivotal role in these debates. The Neanderthal authorship of this techno-complex is based on reported associations of Neanderthal skeletal material with Châtelperronian assemblages at only two sites, La Roche-à-Pierrot (Saint-Césaire) and the Grotte du Renne (Arcy-sur-Cure). The reliability of such an association has, however, been the subject of heated controversy. Here we present a detailed taphonomic, spatial and typo-technological reassessment of the level (EJOP sup) containing the Neanderthal skeletal material at Saint-Césaire. Our assessment of a new larger sample of lithic artifacts, combined with a systematic refitting program and spatial projections of diagnostic artifacts, produced no reliable evidence for a Neanderthal-Châtelperronian association at the site. These results significantly impact current models concerning the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition in Western Europe and force a critical reappraisal of who exactly were the makers of the Châtelperronian.

RevDate: 2018-10-16
CmpDate: 2018-10-16

Hoffmann DL, Standish CD, García-Diez M, et al (2018)

Response to Comment on "U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art".

Science (New York, N.Y.), 362(6411):.

Slimak et al challenge the reliability of our oldest (>65,000 years) U-Th dates on carbonates associated with cave paintings in Spain. They cite a supposed lack of parietal art for the 25,000 years following this date, along with potential methodological issues relating to open-system behavior and corrections to detrital or source water 230Th. We show that their criticisms are unfounded.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Bamford CGG, Aranday-Cortes E, Filipe IC, et al (2018)

A polymorphic residue that attenuates the antiviral potential of interferon lambda 4 in hominid lineages.

PLoS pathogens, 14(10):e1007307 pii:PPATHOGENS-D-18-01002.

As antimicrobial signalling molecules, type III or lambda interferons (IFNλs) are critical for defence against infection by diverse pathogens, including bacteria, fungi and viruses. Counter-intuitively, expression of one member of the family, IFNλ4, is associated with decreased clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the human population; by contrast, a natural frameshift mutation that abrogates IFNλ4 production improves HCV clearance. To further understand how genetic variation between and within species affects IFNλ4 function, we screened a panel of all known extant coding variants of human IFNλ4 for their antiviral potential and identify three that substantially affect activity: P70S, L79F and K154E. The most notable variant was K154E, which was found in African Congo rainforest 'Pygmy' hunter-gatherers. K154E greatly enhanced in vitro activity in a range of antiviral (HCV, Zika virus, influenza virus and encephalomyocarditis virus) and gene expression assays. Remarkably, E154 is the ancestral residue in mammalian IFNλ4s and is extremely well conserved, yet K154 has been fixed throughout evolution of the hominid genus Homo, including Neanderthals. Compared to chimpanzee IFNλ4, the human orthologue had reduced activity due to amino acid K154. Comparison of published gene expression data from humans and chimpanzees showed that this difference in activity between K154 and E154 in IFNλ4 correlates with differences in antiviral gene expression in vivo during HCV infection. Mechanistically, our data show that the human-specific K154 negatively affects IFNλ4 activity through a novel means by reducing its secretion and potency. We thus demonstrate that attenuated activity of IFNλ4 is conserved among humans and postulate that differences in IFNλ4 activity between species contribute to distinct host-specific responses to-and outcomes of-infection, such as HCV infection. The driver of reduced IFNλ4 antiviral activity in humans remains unknown but likely arose between 6 million and 360,000 years ago in Africa.

RevDate: 2018-10-10

Anonymous (2018)

Neanderthal liaisons bestowed virus-fighting genes on humans.

Nature, 562(7726):166.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Rodríguez W, Mazet O, Grusea S, et al (2018)

The IICR and the non-stationary structured coalescent: towards demographic inference with arbitrary changes in population structure.

Heredity, 121(6):663-678.

In the last years, a wide range of methods allowing to reconstruct past population size changes from genome-wide data have been developed. At the same time, there has been an increasing recognition that population structure can generate genetic data similar to those produced under models of population size change. Recently, Mazet et al. (Heredity 116:362-371, 2016) showed that, for any model of population structure, it is always possible to find a panmictic model with a particular function of population size changes, having exactly the same distribution of T2 (the coalescence time for a sample of size two) as that of the structured model. They called this function IICR (Inverse Instantaneous Coalescence Rate) and showed that it does not necessarily correspond to population size changes under non-panmictic models. Besides, most of the methods used to analyse data under models of population structure tend to arbitrarily fix that structure and to minimise or neglect population size changes. Here, we extend the seminal work of Herbots (PhD thesis, University of London, 1994) on the structured coalescent and propose a new framework, the Non-Stationary Structured Coalescent (NSSC) that incorporates demographic events (changes in gene flow and/or deme sizes) to models of nearly any complexity. We show how to compute the IICR under a wide family of stationary and non-stationary models. As an example we address the question of human and Neanderthal evolution and discuss how the NSSC framework allows to interpret genomic data under this new perspective.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Enard D, DA Petrov (2018)

Evidence that RNA Viruses Drove Adaptive Introgression between Neanderthals and Modern Humans.

Cell, 175(2):360-371.e13.

Neanderthals and modern humans interbred at least twice in the past 100,000 years. While there is evidence that most introgressed DNA segments from Neanderthals to modern humans were removed by purifying selection, less is known about the adaptive nature of introgressed sequences that were retained. We hypothesized that interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans led to (1) the exposure of each species to novel viruses and (2) the exchange of adaptive alleles that provided resistance against these viruses. Here, we find that long, frequent-and more likely adaptive-segments of Neanderthal ancestry in modern humans are enriched for proteins that interact with viruses (VIPs). We found that VIPs that interact specifically with RNA viruses were more likely to belong to introgressed segments in modern Europeans. Our results show that retained segments of Neanderthal ancestry can be used to detect ancient epidemics.

RevDate: 2018-10-05

Huerta-Sánchez E, FP Casey (2018)

Simultaneous Viral Exposure and Protection from Neanderthal Introgression.

Cell, 175(2):306-307.

In this issue, Enard and Petrov present intriguing results on the possibility of genetic traces left behind in our genomes from adaptation to past viral epidemics that may have been initiated by interaction with Neanderthal archaic hominins. The work highlights how powerful infectious agents can act as a selective force to shape our genetic makeup.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Jones JR, Richards MP, Straus LG, et al (2018)

Changing environments during the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition in the eastern Cantabrian Region (Spain): direct evidence from stable isotope studies on ungulate bones.

Scientific reports, 8(1):14842 pii:10.1038/s41598-018-32493-0.

Environmental change has been proposed as a factor that contributed to the extinction of the Neanderthals in Europe during MIS3. Currently, the different local environmental conditions experienced at the time when Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) met Neanderthals are not well known. In the Western Pyrenees, particularly, in the eastern end of the Cantabrian coast of the Iberian Peninsula, extensive evidence of Neanderthal and subsequent AMH activity exists, making it an ideal area in which to explore the palaeoenvironments experienced and resources exploited by both human species during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition. Red deer and horse were analysed using bone collagen stable isotope analysis to reconstruct environmental conditions across the transition. A shift in the ecological niche of horses after the Mousterian demonstrates a change in environment, towards more open vegetation, linked to wider climatic change. In the Mousterian, Aurignacian and Gravettian, high inter-individual nitrogen ranges were observed in both herbivores. This could indicate that these individuals were procured from areas isotopically different in nitrogen. Differences in sulphur values between sites suggest some variability in the hunting locations exploited, reflecting the human use of different parts of the landscape. An alternative and complementary explanation proposed is that there were climatic fluctuations within the time of formation of these archaeological levels, as observed in pollen, marine and ice cores.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Zanolli C, Martinón-Torres M, Bernardini F, et al (2018)

The Middle Pleistocene (MIS 12) human dental remains from Fontana Ranuccio (Latium) and Visogliano (Friuli-Venezia Giulia), Italy. A comparative high resolution endostructural assessment.

PloS one, 13(10):e0189773 pii:PONE-D-17-34813.

The penecontemporaneous Middle Pleistocene sites of Fontana Ranuccio (Latium) and Visogliano (Friuli-Venezia Giulia), set c. 450 km apart in central and northeastern Italy, respectively, have yielded some among the oldest human fossil remains testifying to a peopling phase of the Italian Peninsula broadly during the glacial MIS 12, a stage associated with one among the harshest climatic conditions in the Northern hemisphere during the entire Quaternary period. Together with the large samples from Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos, Spain, and Caune de l'Arago at Tautavel, France, the remains from Fontana Ranuccio and Visogliano are among the few mid-Middle Pleistocene dental assemblages from Western Europe available for investigating the presence of an early Neanderthal signature in their inner structure. We applied two- three-dimensional techniques of virtual imaging and geometric morphometrics to the high-resolution X-ray microtomography record of the dental remains from these two Italian sites and compared the results to the evidence from a selected number of Pleistocene and extant human specimens/samples from Europe and North Africa. Depending on their preservation quality and on the degree of occlusal wear, we comparatively assessed: (i) the crown enamel and radicular dentine thickness topographic variation of a uniquely represented lower incisor; (ii) the lateral crown tissue proportions of premolars and molars; (iii) the enamel-dentine junction, and (iv) the pulp cavity morphology of all available specimens. Our analyses reveal in both samples a Neanderthal-like inner structural signal, for some aspects also resembling the condition shown by the contemporary assemblage from Atapuerca SH, and clearly distinct from the recent human figures. This study provides additional evidence indicating that an overall Neanderthal morphological dental template was preconfigured in Western Europe at least 430 to 450 ka ago.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Martín-Francés L, Martinón-Torres M, Martínez de Pinillos M, et al (2018)

Tooth crown tissue proportions and enamel thickness in Early Pleistocene Homo antecessor molars (Atapuerca, Spain).

PloS one, 13(10):e0203334 pii:PONE-D-18-14870.

Tooth crown tissue proportions and enamel thickness distribution are considered reliable characters for inferring taxonomic identity, phylogenetic relationships, dietary and behavioural adaptations in fossil and extant hominids. While most Pleistocene hominins display variations from thick to hyper-thick enamel, Neanderthals exhibit relatively thinner. However, the chronological and geographical origin for the appearance of this typical Neanderthal condition is still unknown. The European late Early Pleistocene species Homo antecessor (Gran Dolina-TD6 site, Sierra de Atapuerca) represents an opportunity to investigate the appearance of the thin condition in the fossil record. In this study, we aim to test the hypothesis if H. antecessor molars approximates the Neanderthal condition for tissue proportions and enamel thickness. To do so, for the first time we characterised the molar inner structural organization in this Early Pleistocene hominin taxon (n = 17) and compared it to extinct and extant populations of the genus Homo from African, Asian and European origin (n = 355). The comparative sample includes maxillary and mandibular molars belonging to H. erectus, East and North African Homo, European Middle Pleistocene Homo, Neanderthals, and fossil and extant H. sapiens. We used high-resolution images to investigate the endostructural configuration of TD6 molars (tissue proportions, enamel thickness and distribution). TD6 permanent molars tend to exhibit on average thick absolute and relative enamel in 2D and 3D estimates, both in the complete crown and the lateral enamel. This condition is shared with the majority of extinct and extant hominin sample, except for Neanderthals and some isolated specimens. However, while the total crown percentage of dentine in TD6 globally resembles the low modern values, the lateral crown percentage of dentine tends to be much higher, closer to the Neanderthal signal. Similarly, the H. antecessor molar enamel distribution maps reveal a relative distribution pattern that is more similar to the Neanderthal condition (with the thickest enamel more spread at the periphery of the occlusal basin) rather than that of other fossil specimens and modern humans (with thicker cuspal enamel). Future studies on European Middle Pleistocene populations will provide more insights into the evolutionary trajectory of the typical Neanderthal dental structural organization.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Hoover KC (2018)

Intragenus (Homo) variation in a chemokine receptor gene (CCR5).

PloS one, 13(10):e0204989 pii:PONE-D-17-35006.

Humans have a comparatively higher rate of more polymorphisms in regulatory regions of the primate CCR5 gene, an immune system gene with both general and specific functions. This has been interpreted as allowing flexibility and diversity of gene expression in response to varying disease loads. A broad expression repertoire is useful to humans-the only globally distributed primate-due to our unique adaptive pattern that increased pathogen exposure and disease loads (e.g., sedentism, subsistence practices). The main objective of the study was to determine if the previously observed human pattern of increased variation extended to other members of our genus, Homo. The data for this study are mined from the published genomes of extinct hominins (four Neandertals and two Denisovans), an ancient human (Ust'-Ishim), and modern humans (1000 Genomes). An average of 15 polymorphisms per individual were found in human populations (with a total of 262 polymorphisms). There were 94 polymorphisms identified across extinct Homo (an average of 13 per individual) with 41 previously observed in modern humans and 53 novel polymorphisms (32 in Denisova and 21 in Neandertal). Neither the frequency nor distribution of polymorphisms across gene regions exhibit significant differences within the genus Homo. Thus, humans are not unique with regards to the increased frequency of regulatory polymorphisms and the evolution of variation patterns across CCR5 gene appears to have originated within the genus. A broader evolutionary perspective on regulatory flexibility may be that it provided an advantage during the transition to confrontational foraging (and later hunting) that altered human-environment interaction as well as during migration to Eurasia and encounters with novel pathogens.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

García-Martínez D, Torres-Tamayo N, Torres-Sánchez I, et al (2018)

Ribcage measurements indicate greater lung capacity in Neanderthals and Lower Pleistocene hominins compared to modern humans.

Communications biology, 1:117 pii:125.

Our most recent fossil relatives, the Neanderthals, had a large brain and a very heavy body compared to modern humans. This type of body requires high levels of energetic intake. While food (meat and fat consumption) is a source of energy, oxygen via respiration is also necessary for metabolism. We would therefore expect Neanderthals to have large respiratory capacities. Here we estimate the pulmonary capacities of Neanderthals, based on costal measurements and physiological data from a modern human comparative sample. The Kebara 2 male had a lung volume of about 9.04 l; Tabun C1, a female individual, a lung volume of 5.85 l; and a Neanderthal from the El Sidrón site, a lung volume of 9.03 l. These volumes are approximately 20% greater than the corresponding volumes of modern humans of the same body size and sex. These results show that the Neanderthal body was highly sensitive to energy supply.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Karakostis FA, Hotz G, Tourloukis V, et al (2018)

Evidence for precision grasping in Neandertal daily activities.

Science advances, 4(9):eaat2369 pii:aat2369.

Neandertal manual activities, as previously reconstructed from their robust hand skeletons, are thought to involve systematic power grasping rather than precise hand movements. However, this interpretation is at odds with increasing archeological evidence for sophisticated cultural behavior. We reevaluate the manipulative behaviors of Neandertals and early modern humans using a historical reference sample with extensive genealogical and lifelong occupational documentation, in combination with a new and precise three-dimensional multivariate analysis of hand muscle attachments. Results show that Neandertal muscle marking patterns overlap exclusively with documented lifelong precision workers, reflecting systematic precision grasping consistent with the use of their associated cultural remains. Our findings challenge the established interpretation of Neandertal behavior and establish a solid link between biological and cultural remains in the fossil record.

RevDate: 2018-10-04
CmpDate: 2018-09-25

Slimak L, Fietzke J, Geneste JM, et al (2018)

Comment on "U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art".

Science (New York, N.Y.), 361(6408):.

Hoffmann et al (Reports, 23 February 2018, p. 912) report the discovery of parietal art older than 64,800 years and attributed to Neanderthals, at least 25 millennia before the oldest parietal art ever found. Instead, critical evaluation of their geochronological data seems to provide stronger support for an age of 47,000 years, which is much more consistent with the archaeological background in hand.

RevDate: 2018-09-19

Charlier P, Coppens Y, Héry-Arnaud G, et al (2018)

[A biological anthropology of the disappearance of the Neandertal Man: recent data].

Medecine sciences : M/S, 34(8-9):745-748.

What could have been the causes of the disappearance of Neanderthals? We will try here to make a synthesis between one of the fundamental questions of biological anthropology relating to human evolution (hypotheses on the causes of the extinction of Neanderthals) and evolutionary bio-medical concepts, some of which have recently been reformulated thanks to the progress of paleogenomics (ancestral inheritance of the current human immune system, paleo-microbiology, host-pathogen relationship…).

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Skov L, Hui R, Shchur V, et al (2018)

Detecting archaic introgression using an unadmixed outgroup.

PLoS genetics, 14(9):e1007641 pii:PGENETICS-D-18-00624.

Human populations outside of Africa have experienced at least two bouts of introgression from archaic humans, from Neanderthals and Denisovans. In Papuans there is prior evidence of both these introgressions. Here we present a new approach to detect segments of individual genomes of archaic origin without using an archaic reference genome. The approach is based on a hidden Markov model that identifies genomic regions with a high density of single nucleotide variants (SNVs) not seen in unadmixed populations. We show using simulations that this provides a powerful approach to identifying segments of archaic introgression with a low rate of false detection, given data from a suitable outgroup population is available, without the archaic introgression but containing a majority of the variation that arose since initial separation from the archaic lineage. Furthermore our approach is able to infer admixture proportions and the times both of admixture and of initial divergence between the human and archaic populations. We apply the model to detect archaic introgression in 89 Papuans and show how the identified segments can be assigned to likely Neanderthal or Denisovan origin. We report more Denisovan admixture than previous studies and find a shift in size distribution of fragments of Neanderthal and Denisovan origin that is compatible with a difference in admixture time. Furthermore, we identify small amounts of Denisova ancestry in South East Asians and South Asians.

RevDate: 2018-11-16
CmpDate: 2018-11-16

Anonymous (2018)

The earliest known drawing in history sends a message through 73,000 years.

Nature, 561(7722):149.

RevDate: 2018-10-24

Clyde D (2018)

The girl with Neanderthal and Denisovan parents.

Nature reviews. Genetics, 19(11):668-669.

RevDate: 2018-10-01

Conde-Valverde M, Quam R, Martínez I, et al (2018)

The bony labyrinth in the Aroeira 3 Middle Pleistocene cranium.

Journal of human evolution, 124:105-116.

The discovery of a partial cranium at the site of Aroeira (Portugal) dating to 389-436 ka augments the current sample of Middle Pleistocene European crania and makes this specimen penecontemporaneous with the fossils from the geographically close Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos (SH) and Arago sites. A recent study of the cranium documented a unique combination of primitive and derived features. The Aroeira 3 cranium preserves the right temporal bone, including the petrosal portion. Virtual reconstruction of the bony labyrinth from μCT scans provides an opportunity to examine its morphology. A series of standard linear and angular measures of the semicircular canals and cochlea in Aroeira 3 were compared with other fossil hominins and recent humans. Our analysis has revealed the absence of derived Neandertal features in Aroeira 3. In particular, the specimen lacks both the derived canal proportions and the low position of the posterior canal, two of the most diagnostic features of the Neandertal bony labyrinth, and Aroeira 3 is more primitive in these features than the Atapuerca (SH) sample. One potentially derived feature (low shape index of the cochlear basal turn) is shared between Aroeira 3 and the Atapuerca (SH) hominins, but is absent in Neandertals. The results of our study provide new insights into Middle Pleistocene population dynamics close to the origin of the Neandertal clade. In particular, the contrasting inner ear morphology between Aroeira 3 and the Atapuerca (SH) hominins suggests a degree of demographic isolation, despite the close geographic proximity and similar age of these two sites.

RevDate: 2018-10-01

Goldfield AE, Booton R, JM Marston (2018)

Modeling the role of fire and cooking in the competitive exclusion of Neanderthals.

Journal of human evolution, 124:91-104.

The Neanderthal body was more robust and energetically costly than the bodies of anatomically modern humans (AMH). Different metabolic budgets between competing populations of Neanderthals and AMH may have been a factor in the varied ranges of behavior and timelines for Neanderthal extinction that we see in the Paleolithic archaeological record. This paper uses an adaptation of the Lotka-Volterra model to determine whether metabolic differences alone could have accounted for Neanderthal extinction. In addition, we use a modeling approach to investigate Neanderthal fire use, evidence for which is much debated and is variable throughout different climatic phases of the Middle Paleolithic. The increased caloric yield from a cooked versus a raw diet may have played an important role in population competition between Neanderthals and AMH. We arrive at two key conclusions. First, given differences in metabolic budget between Neanderthals and AMH and their dependence on similar or overlapping food resources, Neanderthal extinction is likely inevitable over the long term. Second, the rate of Neanderthal extinction increases as the frequency of AMH fire use increases. Results highlight the importance of understanding the variable behaviors at play on a regional scale in order to understand global Neanderthal extinction. We also emphasize the importance of understanding the role of fire use in the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition.

RevDate: 2018-09-03

Aubert M, Brumm A, J Huntley (2018)

Early dates for 'Neanderthal cave art' may be wrong.

Journal of human evolution pii:S0047-2484(18)30091-5 [Epub ahead of print].

RevDate: 2018-08-28

Delpiano D, Heasley K, M Peresani (2018)

Assessing Neanderthal land use and lithic raw material management in Discoid technology.

Journal of anthropological sciences = Rivista di antropologia : JASS, 96: [Epub ahead of print].

Neanderthal groups developed different models of mobility and exploitation of resources across their territory: these differences can be linked to various knapping methods and are probably related to adaptative strategies and responses at many ecological and cultural levels. Neanderthals associated with Discoid knapping are known to depend on an opportunistic exploitation of lithic raw materials for daily food procurement and be more mobile than others using different technologies. However, we have no defined data for most of the geographical contexts where this technocomplex was found. This study analyzes the southern Alpine site of Grotta di Fumane, where the final Mousterian is characterized by the succession of well defined cultural entities. Unit A9 presents with entirely Discoid technology and is embedded between fully Levallois levels. The level was recently extensively investigated for almost 68m² on 9,000 lithic pieces. To study the lithic assemblage of Unit A9 we applied a techno-economical analysis designed to infer the spatial fragmentation of the reduction sequences, and results were corroborated through the characterization of cortex and raw materials based on geological surveys and experimental comparisons. Results show that raw materials collected within a radius of 5km, by far the most frequently used, exhibit complete and ordinary reduction sequences, which were further attested by multiple refittings. Beyond this area, semi-local raw materials (5-10 km) are introduced to perform specific tasks, and are reduced according to their different physical qualities. These data, combined with the presence of lithotypes and fossils collected from longer distances (ten to hundreds of kilometers), and to the recycling of old patinated artifacts, indicate a complex and diversified behavior encompassing both: a) opportunistic and daily residential exploitation within a local territory; b) logistical planning of the economical organization in the semi-local to exotic territory according to quality and distance of available raw materials sources.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-10-05

Staubwasser M, Drăgușin V, Onac BP, et al (2018)

Impact of climate change on the transition of Neanderthals to modern humans in Europe.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(37):9116-9121.

Two speleothem stable isotope records from East-Central Europe demonstrate that Greenland Stadial 12 (GS12) and GS10-at 44.3-43.3 and 40.8-40.2 ka-were prominent intervals of cold and arid conditions. GS12, GS11, and GS10 are coeval with a regional pattern of culturally (near-)sterile layers within Europe's diachronous archeologic transition from Neanderthals to modern human Aurignacian. Sterile layers coeval with GS12 precede the Aurignacian throughout the middle and upper Danube region. In some records from the northern Iberian Peninsula, such layers are coeval with GS11 and separate the Châtelperronian from the Aurignacian. Sterile layers preceding the Aurignacian in the remaining Châtelperronian domain are coeval with GS10 and the previously reported 40.0- to 40.8-ka cal BP [calendar years before present (1950)] time range of Neanderthals' disappearance from most of Europe. This suggests that ecologic stress during stadial expansion of steppe landscape caused a diachronous pattern of depopulation of Neanderthals, which facilitated repopulation by modern humans who appear to have been better adapted to this environment. Consecutive depopulation-repopulation cycles during severe stadials of the middle pleniglacial may principally explain the repeated replacement of Europe's population and its genetic composition.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Guichard E, Peona V, Malagoli Tagliazucchi G, et al (2018)

Impact of non-LTR retrotransposons in the differentiation and evolution of anatomically modern humans.

Mobile DNA, 9:28 pii:133.

Background: Transposable elements are biologically important components of eukaryote genomes. In particular, non-LTR retrotransposons (N-LTRrs) played a key role in shaping the human genome throughout evolution. In this study, we compared retrotransposon insertions differentially present in the genomes of Anatomically Modern Humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and Chimpanzees, in order to assess the possible impact of retrotransposition in the differentiation of the human lineage.

Results: We first identified species-specific N-LTRrs and established their distribution in present day human populations. These analyses shortlisted a group of N-LTRr insertions that were found exclusively in Anatomically Modern Humans. These insertions are associated with an increase in the number of transcriptional/splicing variants of those genes they inserted in. The analysis of the functionality of genes containing human-specific N-LTRr insertions reflects changes that occurred during human evolution. In particular, the expression of genes containing the most recent N-LTRr insertions is enriched in the brain, especially in undifferentiated neurons, and these genes associate in networks related to neuron maturation and migration. Additionally, we identified candidate N-LTRr insertions that have likely produced new functional variants exclusive to modern humans, whose genomic loci show traces of positive selection.

Conclusions: Our results strongly suggest that N-LTRr impacted our differentiation as a species, most likely inducing an increase in neural complexity, and have been a constant source of genomic variability all throughout the evolution of the human lineage.

RevDate: 2018-10-26
CmpDate: 2018-10-26

Vogel G (2018)

Ancient DNA reveals tryst between extinct human species.

Science (New York, N.Y.), 361(6404):737.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Slon V, Mafessoni F, Vernot B, et al (2018)

The genome of the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.

Nature, 561(7721):113-116.

Neanderthals and Denisovans are extinct groups of hominins that separated from each other more than 390,000 years ago1,2. Here we present the genome of 'Denisova 11', a bone fragment from Denisova Cave (Russia)3 and show that it comes from an individual who had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. The father, whose genome bears traces of Neanderthal ancestry, came from a population related to a later Denisovan found in the cave4-6. The mother came from a population more closely related to Neanderthals who lived later in Europe2,7 than to an earlier Neanderthal found in Denisova Cave8, suggesting that migrations of Neanderthals between eastern and western Eurasia occurred sometime after 120,000 years ago. The finding of a first-generation Neanderthal-Denisovan offspring among the small number of archaic specimens sequenced to date suggests that mixing between Late Pleistocene hominin groups was common when they met.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Srinivasan S, Bettella F, Frei O, et al (2018)

Enrichment of genetic markers of recent human evolution in educational and cognitive traits.

Scientific reports, 8(1):12585 pii:10.1038/s41598-018-30387-9.

Higher cognitive functions are regarded as one of the main distinctive traits of humans. Evidence for the cognitive evolution of human beings is mainly based on fossil records of an expanding cranium and an increasing complexity of material culture artefacts. However, the molecular genetic factors involved in the evolution are still relatively unexplored. Here, we investigated whether genomic regions that underwent positive selection in humans after divergence from Neanderthals are enriched for genetic association with phenotypes related to cognitive functions. We used genome wide association data from a study of college completion (N = 111,114), one of educational attainment (N = 293,623) and two different studies of general cognitive ability (N = 269,867 and 53,949). We found nominally significant polygenic enrichment of associations with college completion (p = 0.025), educational attainment (p = 0.043) and general cognitive ability (p = 0.015 and 0.025, respectively), suggesting that variants influencing these phenotypes are more prevalent in evolutionarily salient regions. The enrichment remained significant after controlling for other known genetic enrichment factors, and for affiliation to genes highly expressed in the brain. These findings support the notion that phenotypes related to higher order cognitive skills typical of humans have a recent genetic component that originated after the separation of the human and Neanderthal lineages.

RevDate: 2018-08-23

Warren M (2018)

Mum's a Neanderthal, Dad's a Denisovan: First discovery of an ancient-human hybrid.

Nature, 560(7719):417-418.

RevDate: 2018-08-11

Bruner E, Fedato A, Silva-Gago M, et al (2018)

Cognitive archeology, body cognition, and hand-tool interaction.

Progress in brain research, 238:325-345.

Body cognition and lateralization can be investigated in fossils by integrating anatomical and functional aspects. Paleoneurology cannot provide strong evidence in this sense, because hemispheric asymmetries are shared in all extinct human species, and motor cortical areas are difficult to delineate in endocranial casts. However, paleoneurological analyses also suggest that modern humans and Neanderthals underwent an expansion of parietal regions crucial for visuospatial integration and eye-hand-tool management. Because of our technological specialization, haptic cognition can be particularly targeted by evolutionary processes. Hand-tool relationships can be investigated through physical and physiological correlates. In terms of metrics, size is the main factor of hand morphological variation among adult humans, followed by the ratio between thumb length and palmar size. In modern humans, emotional changes during hand-tool contact can be measured by electrodermal activity. During tool manipulation, electrodermal response, which is a physiological correlate of emotional engagement, shows differences between males and females, and it is different for distinct Paleolithic technologies. Emotional engagement, hand management, and haptic cognition are part of a specialized prosthetic technological capacity of modern humans and can provide indirect evidence of cognitive discontinuities in the archeological record.

RevDate: 2018-09-13
CmpDate: 2018-09-13

Tucci S, Vohr SH, McCoy RC, et al (2018)

Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia.

Science (New York, N.Y.), 361(6401):511-516.

Flores Island, Indonesia, was inhabited by the small-bodied hominin species Homo floresiensis, which has an unknown evolutionary relationship to modern humans. This island is also home to an extant human pygmy population. Here we describe genome-scale single-nucleotide polymorphism data and whole-genome sequences from a contemporary human pygmy population living on Flores near the cave where H. floresiensis was found. The genomes of Flores pygmies reveal a complex history of admixture with Denisovans and Neanderthals but no evidence for gene flow with other archaic hominins. Modern individuals bear the signatures of recent positive selection encompassing the FADS (fatty acid desaturase) gene cluster, likely related to diet, and polygenic selection acting on standing variation that contributed to their short-stature phenotype. Thus, multiple independent instances of hominin insular dwarfism occurred on Flores.

RevDate: 2018-07-21

Charlier P, Gaultier F, G Héry-Arnaud (2018)

Interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans: Remarks and methodological dangers of a dental calculus microbiome analysis.

Journal of human evolution pii:S0047-2484(17)30512-2 [Epub ahead of print].

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Sorensen AC, Claud E, M Soressi (2018)

Neandertal fire-making technology inferred from microwear analysis.

Scientific reports, 8(1):10065 pii:10.1038/s41598-018-28342-9.

Fire use appears to have been relatively common among Neandertals in the Middle Palaeolithic. However, the means by which Neandertals procured their fire-either through the collection of natural fire, or by producing it themselves using tools-is still a matter of debate. We present here the first direct artefactual evidence for regular, systematic fire production by Neandertals. From archaeological layers attributed to late Mousterian industries at multiple sites throughout France, primarily to the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MTA) technoculture (ca. 50,000 years BP), we identify using microwear analysis dozens of late Middle Palaeolithic bifacial tools that exhibit macroscopic and microscopic traces suggesting repeated percussion and/or forceful abrasion with a hard mineral material. Both the locations and nature of the polish and associated striations are comparable to those obtained experimentally by obliquely percussing fragments of pyrite (FeS2) against the flat/convex sides of a biface to make fire. The striations within these discrete use zones are always oriented roughly parallel to the longitudinal axis of the tool, allowing us to rule out taphonomic origins for these traces. We therefore suggest that the occasional use of bifaces as 'strike-a-lights' was a technocultural feature shared among the late Neandertals in France.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Dolgova O, O Lao (2018)

Evolutionary and Medical Consequences of Archaic Introgression into Modern Human Genomes.

Genes, 9(7): pii:genes9070358.

The demographic history of anatomically modern humans (AMH) involves multiple migration events, population extinctions and genetic adaptations. As genome-wide data from complete genome sequencing becomes increasingly abundant and available even from extinct hominins, new insights of the evolutionary history of our species are discovered. It is currently known that AMH interbred with archaic hominins once they left the African continent. Current non-African human genomes carry fragments of archaic origin. This review focuses on the fitness consequences of archaic interbreeding in current human populations. We discuss new insights and challenges that researchers face when interpreting the potential impact of introgression on fitness and testing hypotheses about the role of selection within the context of health and disease.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Gómez-Olivencia A, Sala N, Núñez-Lahuerta C, et al (2018)

First data of Neandertal bird and carnivore exploitation in the Cantabrian Region (Axlor; Barandiaran excavations; Dima, Biscay, Northern Iberian Peninsula).

Scientific reports, 8(1):10551 pii:10.1038/s41598-018-28377-y.

Neandertals were top predators who basically relied on middle- to large-sized ungulates for dietary purposes, but there is growing evidence that supports their consumption of plants, leporids, tortoises, marine resources, carnivores and birds. The Iberian Peninsula has provided the most abundant record of bird exploitation for meat in Europe, starting in the Middle Pleistocene. However, the bird and carnivore exploitation record was hitherto limited to the Mediterranean area of the Iberian Peninsula. Here we present the first evidence of bird and carnivore exploitation by Neandertals in the Cantabrian region. We have found cut-marks in two golden eagles, one raven, one wolf and one lynx remain from the Mousterian levels of Axlor. The obtaining of meat was likely the primary purpose of the cut-marks on the golden eagle and lynx remains. Corvids, raptors, felids and canids in Axlor could have likely acted as commensals of the Neandertals, scavenging upon the carcasses left behind by these hunter-gatherers. This could have brought them closer to Neandertal groups who could have preyed upon them. These new results provide additional information on their dietary scope and indicate a more complex interaction between Neandertals and their environment.

RevDate: 2018-07-29

García-Martínez D, Radovčić D, Radovčić J, et al (2018)

Over 100 years of Krapina: New insights into the Neanderthal thorax from the study of rib cross-sectional morphology.

Journal of human evolution, 122:124-132.

The Krapina costal sample was studied by Gorjanović-Kramberger in the early twentieth century. He pointed out unique features in the sample such as the rounder rib cross-section, which was recently confirmed in other Neanderthal specimens. Round rib cross-sections are characteristic of Homo ergaster, suggesting this may be plesiomorphic for Pleistocene Homo, but it is unknown whether Homo antecessor also had this rib shape. Furthermore, the influence of allometry on the cross-sectional shape of ribs is still unknown. The large costal sample from Krapina allows us to address these issues. We quantified cross-section morphology at the midshaft throughout a closed curve of one landmark and nine sliding semilandmarks in the Krapina costal remains (n = 7), as well as in other Neanderthals (n = 50), H. antecessor (n = 3) and modern humans, both fossil (n = 12) and recent (n = 160). We used principal components analysis and mean comparisons to explore interspecific differences, regression analysis to investigate allometry, and partial least squares analysis to examine covariation of cross-section shape and overall rib morphology. Neanderthal cross-sections tended to be larger than those of recent humans except for the Krapina and Tabun remains. Regarding shape, inter-group differences were found only in the diaphragmatic thorax, where Neanderthal and H. antecessor ribs were statistically significantly rounder than those of modern humans. Allometry accounted for covariation of size on shape, but the Neandertal and modern human trajectories had different slopes. While our results based on the Krapina costal sample are similar to previous findings, we also make several new insights: 1) the cross-section morphology observed in Neanderthals was probably present in H. antecessor, albeit less marked; 2) the distinct roundness of Neanderthal cross-sections is not related to size; 3) rounder cross-sections are correlated with ribs presenting less curvature in cranial view and a low degree of torsion in recent humans. These results are important for the interpretation of fragmentary Neanderthal costal remains, and the fact that the differences are marked only in the diaphragmatic thorax could have implications for breathing kinematics.

RevDate: 2018-06-28

Hoffmann DL, Standish CD, Pike AWG, et al (2018)

Dates for Neanderthal art and symbolic behaviour are reliable.

Nature ecology & evolution, 2(7):1044-1045.

RevDate: 2018-06-28

Gaudzinski-Windheuser S, Noack ES, Pop E, et al (2018)

Evidence for close-range hunting by last interglacial Neanderthals.

Nature ecology & evolution, 2(7):1087-1092.

Animal resources have been part of hominin diets since around 2.5 million years ago, with sharp-edged stone tools facilitating access to carcasses. How exactly hominins acquired animal prey and how hunting strategies varied through time and space is far from clear. The oldest possible hunting weapons known from the archaeological record are 300,000 to 400,000-year-old sharpened wooden staves. These may have been used as throwing and/or close-range thrusting spears, but actual data on how such objects were used are lacking, as unambiguous lesions caused by such weapon-like objects are unknown for most of human prehistory. Here, we report perforations observed on two fallow deer skeletons from Neumark-Nord, Germany, retrieved during excavations of 120,000-year-old lake shore deposits with abundant traces of Neanderthal presence. Detailed studies of the perforations, including micro-computed tomography imaging and ballistic experiments, demonstrate that they resulted from the close-range use of thrusting spears. Such confrontational ways of hunting require close cooperation between participants, and over time may have shaped important aspects of hominin biology and behaviour.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Li J, Hong X, Mesiano S, et al (2018)

Natural Selection Has Differentiated the Progesterone Receptor among Human Populations.

American journal of human genetics, 103(1):45-57.

The progesterone receptor (PGR) plays a central role in maintaining pregnancy and is significantly associated with medical conditions such as preterm birth that affects 12.6% of all the births in U.S. PGR has been evolving rapidly since the common ancestor of human and chimpanzee, and we herein investigated evolutionary dynamics of PGR during recent human migration and population differentiation. Our study revealed substantial population differentiation at the PGR locus driven by natural selection, where very recent positive selection in East Asians has substantially decreased its genetic diversity by nearly fixing evolutionarily novel alleles. On the contrary, in European populations, the PGR locus has been promoted to a highly polymorphic state likely due to balancing selection. Integrating transcriptome data across multiple tissue types together with large-scale genome-wide association data for preterm birth, our study demonstrated the consequence of the selection event in East Asians on remodeling PGR expression specifically in the ovary and determined a significant association of early spontaneous preterm birth with the evolutionarily selected variants. To reconstruct its evolutionary trajectory on the human lineage, we observed substantial differentiation between modern and archaic humans at the PGR locus, including fixation of a deleterious missense allele in the Neanderthal genome that was later introgressed in modern human populations. Taken together, our study revealed substantial evolutionary innovation in PGR even during very recent human evolution, and its different forms among human populations likely result in differential susceptibility to progesterone-associated disease conditions including preterm birth.

RevDate: 2018-06-22

Prüfer K (2018)

snpAD: An ancient DNA genotype caller.

Bioinformatics (Oxford, England) pii:5042170 [Epub ahead of print].

Motivation: The study of ancient genomes can elucidate the evolutionary past. However, analyses are complicated by base-modifications in ancient DNA molecules that result in errors in DNA sequences. These errors are particularly common near the ends of sequences and pose a challenge for genotype calling.

Results: I describe an iterative method that estimates genotype frequencies and errors along sequences to allow for accurate genotype calling from ancient sequences. The implementation of this method, called snpAD, performs well on high-coverage ancient data, as shown by simulations and by subsampling the data of a high-coverage Neandertal genome. Although estimates for low-coverage genomes are less accurate, I am able to derive approximate estimates of heterozygosity from several low-coverage Neandertals. These estimates show that low heterozygosity, compared to modern humans, was common among Neandertals.

Availability: The C ++ code of snpAD is freely available at http://bioinf.eva.mpg.de/snpAD/.

Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

RevDate: 2018-08-22
CmpDate: 2018-08-22

Galway-Witham J, C Stringer (2018)

How did Homo sapiens evolve?.

Science (New York, N.Y.), 360(6395):1296-1298.

RevDate: 2018-06-25

Cohen J (2018)

Neanderthal brain organoids come to life.

Science (New York, N.Y.), 360(6395):1284.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-10-15

Cabrera VM, Marrero P, Abu-Amero KK, et al (2018)

Carriers of mitochondrial DNA macrohaplogroup L3 basal lineages migrated back to Africa from Asia around 70,000 years ago.

BMC evolutionary biology, 18(1):98 pii:10.1186/s12862-018-1211-4.

BACKGROUND: The main unequivocal conclusion after three decades of phylogeographic mtDNA studies is the African origin of all extant modern humans. In addition, a southern coastal route has been argued for to explain the Eurasian colonization of these African pioneers. Based on the age of macrohaplogroup L3, from which all maternal Eurasian and the majority of African lineages originated, the out-of-Africa event has been dated around 60-70 kya. On the opposite side, we have proposed a northern route through Central Asia across the Levant for that expansion and, consistent with the fossil record, we have dated it around 125 kya. To help bridge differences between the molecular and fossil record ages, in this article we assess the possibility that mtDNA macrohaplogroup L3 matured in Eurasia and returned to Africa as basal L3 lineages around 70 kya.

RESULTS: The coalescence ages of all Eurasian (M,N) and African (L3) lineages, both around 71 kya, are not significantly different. The oldest M and N Eurasian clades are found in southeastern Asia instead near of Africa as expected by the southern route hypothesis. The split of the Y-chromosome composite DE haplogroup is very similar to the age of mtDNA L3. An Eurasian origin and back migration to Africa has been proposed for the African Y-chromosome haplogroup E. Inside Africa, frequency distributions of maternal L3 and paternal E lineages are positively correlated. This correlation is not fully explained by geographic or ethnic affinities. This correlation rather seems to be the result of a joint and global replacement of the old autochthonous male and female African lineages by the new Eurasian incomers.

CONCLUSIONS: These results are congruent with a model proposing an out-of-Africa migration into Asia, following a northern route, of early anatomically modern humans carrying pre-L3 mtDNA lineages around 125 kya, subsequent diversification of pre-L3 into the basal lineages of L3, a return to Africa of Eurasian fully modern humans around 70 kya carrying the basal L3 lineages and the subsequent diversification of Eurasian-remaining L3 lineages into the M and N lineages in the outside-of-Africa context, and a second Eurasian global expansion by 60 kya, most probably, out of southeast Asia. Climatic conditions and the presence of Neanderthals and other hominins might have played significant roles in these human movements. Moreover, recent studies based on ancient DNA and whole-genome sequencing are also compatible with this hypothesis.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Cserhati MF, Mooter ME, Peterson L, et al (2018)

Motifome comparison between modern human, Neanderthal and Denisovan.

BMC genomics, 19(1):472 pii:10.1186/s12864-018-4710-1.

BACKGROUND: The availability of the genomes of two archaic humans, Neanderthal and Denisovan, and that of modern humans provides researchers an opportunity to investigate genetic differences between these three subspecies on a genome-wide scale. Here we describe an algorithm that predicts statistically significant motifs based on the difference between a given motif's actual and expected distributions. The algorithm was previously applied to plants but was modified for this work.

RESULTS: The result of applying the algorithm to the human, Neanderthal, and Denisovan genomes is a catalog of potential regulatory motifs in these three human subspecies. We examined the distributions of these motifs in genetic elements including human retroviruses, human accelerated regions, and human accelerated conserved noncoding sequences regions. Differences in these distributions could be the origin of differences in phenotype between the three subspecies. Twenty significant motifs common to all three genomes were found; thirty-three were found in endogenous retroviruses in Neanderthal and Denisovan. Ten of these motifs mapped to the 22 bp core of MiR-1304. The core of this genetic element regulates the ENAM and AMTN genes, which take part in odontogenesis and whose 3' UTRs contained significant motifs. The introns of 20 genes were found to contain a large number of significant motifs, which were also overrepresented in 49 human accelerated regions. These genes include NAV2, SorCS2, TRAPPC9, GRID1, PRDM16, CAMTA1, and ASIC which are all involved in neuroregulation. Further analysis of these genes using the GO database indicates that many are associated with neurodevelopment. Also, varying numbers of significant motifs were found to occur in regions of the Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes that are missing from the human genome, suggesting further functional differences between modern and archaic humans.

CONCLUSION: Although Neanderthal and Denisovan are now extinct, detailed examination of elements from their genomes can shed light on possible phenotypic and cognitive differences between these two archaic human subspecies and modern humans. Genetic similarities and differences between these three subspecies and other fossil hominids would also be of interest.

RevDate: 2018-11-09

Hublin JJ, Ben-Ncer A, Bailey SE, et al (2018)

Author Correction: New fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco and the pan-African origin of Homo sapiens.

Nature, 558(7711):E6.

In the originally published version of this Letter, the x axis in Fig. 3a should have been: 'PC1: 26%' rather than 'PC1: 46%', and the y axis should have been: 'PC2: 16%' rather than 'PC2: 29%'. We also noticed an error in the numbering of the fossils from Qafzeh: Qafzeh 27 should be removed, and Qafzeh 26 is actually Qafzeh 25, following Tillier (2014)1 and Schuh et al. (2017)2 and personal communication with B. Vandermeersch and M. D. Garralda. The correct enumeration of Qafzeh samples in the 'Mandibular metric data' section of the Methods is therefore: 'Qafzeh (9, 25)' rather than 'Qafzeh (9, 26, 27)'. Owing to the removal of Qafzeh 27, the convex hull of early modern humans changes slightly in Extended Data Fig. 1c. The sample sizes in Extended Data Fig. 1c should have read: Middle Pleistocene archaic Homo n = 19 (instead of 11), Neanderthals n = 40 (instead of 41), early modern humans n = 12 (instead of 7), and recent modern humans n = 46 (instead of 48). In Extended Data Table 2, the mean and standard deviation of corpus height and breadth at mental foramen for early modern humans should have been: x̅ = 33.15, σ = 3.26 for height (rather than x̅ = 34.23, σ = 4.57); and x̅ = 16.25, σ = 1.28 for breadth (rather than x̅ = 16.04, σ = 1.75). Accordingly, n = 12 (rather than n = 13) for both breadth and height. These errors have been corrected in the Letter online (the original Extended Data Fig. 1 is shown in Supplementary Information to this Amendment). These changes do not alter any inferences drawn from the data.

RevDate: 2018-11-16

Dannemann M, F Racimo (2018)

Something old, something borrowed: admixture and adaptation in human evolution.

Current opinion in genetics & development, 53:1-8 pii:S0959-437X(17)30185-5 [Epub ahead of print].

The sequencing of ancient DNA from archaic humans-Neanderthals and Denisovans-has revealed that modern and archaic humans interbred at least twice during the Pleistocene. The field of human paleogenomics has now turned its attention towards understanding the nature of this genetic legacy in the gene pool of present-day humans. What exactly did modern humans obtain from interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans? Was the introgressed genetic material beneficial, neutral or maladaptive? Can differences in phenotypes among present-day human populations be explained by archaic human introgression? These questions are of prime importance for our understanding of recent human evolution, but will require careful computational modeling and extensive functional assays before they can be answered in full. Here, we review the recent literature characterizing introgressed DNA and the likely biological consequences for their modern human carriers. We focus particularly on archaic human haplotypes that were beneficial to modern humans as they expanded across the globe, and on ways to understand how populations harboring these haplotypes evolved over time.

RevDate: 2018-07-29

García-Martínez D, Campo Martín M, González Martín A, et al (2018)

Reevaluation of 'endocostal ossifications' on the Kebara 2 Neanderthal ribs.

Journal of human evolution, 122:33-37.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-10-15

Banerjee N, Polushina T, Bettella F, et al (2018)

Recently evolved human-specific methylated regions are enriched in schizophrenia signals.

BMC evolutionary biology, 18(1):63 pii:10.1186/s12862-018-1177-2.

BACKGROUND: One explanation for the persistence of schizophrenia despite the reduced fertility of patients is that it is a by-product of recent human evolution. This hypothesis is supported by evidence suggesting that recently-evolved genomic regions in humans are involved in the genetic risk for schizophrenia. Using summary statistics from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of schizophrenia and 11 other phenotypes, we tested for enrichment of association with GWAS traits in regions that have undergone methylation changes in the human lineage compared to Neanderthals and Denisovans, i.e. human-specific differentially methylated regions (DMRs). We used analytical tools that evaluate polygenic enrichment of a subset of genomic variants against all variants.

RESULTS: Schizophrenia was the only trait in which DMR SNPs showed clear enrichment of association that passed the genome-wide significance threshold. The enrichment was not observed for Neanderthal or Denisovan DMRs. The enrichment seen in human DMRs is comparable to that for genomic regions tagged by Neanderthal Selective Sweep markers, and stronger than that for Human Accelerated Regions. The enrichment survives multiple testing performed through permutation (n = 10,000) and bootstrapping (n = 5000) in INRICH (p < 0.01). Some enrichment of association with height was observed at the gene level.

CONCLUSIONS: Regions where DNA methylation modifications have changed during recent human evolution show enrichment of association with schizophrenia and possibly with height. Our study further supports the hypothesis that genetic variants conferring risk of schizophrenia co-occur in genomic regions that have changed as the human species evolved. Since methylation is an epigenetic mark, potentially mediated by environmental changes, our results also suggest that interaction with the environment might have contributed to that association.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-08-06

Villa P, Pollarolo L, Conforti J, et al (2018)

From Neandertals to modern humans: New data on the Uluzzian.

PloS one, 13(5):e0196786 pii:PONE-D-17-39605.

Having thrived in Eurasia for 350,000 years Neandertals disappeared from the record around 40,000-37,000 years ago, after modern humans entered Europe. It was a complex process of population interactions that included cultural exchanges and admixture between Neandertals and dispersing groups of modern humans. In Europe Neandertals are always associated with the Mousterian while the Aurignacian is associated with modern humans only. The onset of the Aurignacian is preceded by "transitional" industries which show some similarities with the Mousterian but also contain modern tool forms. Information on these industries is often incomplete or disputed and this is true of the Uluzzian. We present the results of taphonomic, typological and technological analyses of two Uluzzian sites, Grotta La Fabbrica (Tuscany) and the newly discovered site of Colle Rotondo (Latium). Comparisons with Castelcivita and Grotta del Cavallo show that the Uluzzian is a coherent cultural unit lasting about five millennia, replaced by the Protoaurignacian before the eruption of the Campanian Ignimbrite. The lack of skeletal remains at our two sites and the controversy surrounding the stratigraphic position of modern human teeth at Cavallo makes it difficult to reach agreement about authorship of the Uluzzian, for which alternative hypotheses have been proposed. Pending the discovery of DNA or further human remains, these hypotheses can only be evaluated by archaeological arguments, i.e. evidence of continuities and discontinuities between the Uluzzian and the preceding and succeeding culture units in Italy. However, in the context of "transitional" industries with disputed dates for the arrival of modern humans in Europe, and considering the case of the Châtelperronian, an Upper Paleolithic industry made by Neandertals, typo-technology used as an indicator of hominin authorship has limited predictive value. We corroborate previous suggestions that the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition occurred as steps of rapid changes and geographically uneven rates of spread.

RevDate: 2018-08-10

Akkuratov EE, Gelfand MS, EE Khrameeva (2018)

Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry in Papuans: A functional study.

Journal of bioinformatics and computational biology, 16(2):1840011.

Sequencing of complete nuclear genomes of Neanderthal and Denisovan stimulated studies about their relationship with modern humans demonstrating, in particular, that DNA alleles from both Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes are present in genomes of modern humans. The Papuan genome is a unique object because it contains both Neanderthal and Denisovan alleles. Here, we have shown that the Papuan genomes contain different gene functional groups inherited from each of the ancient people. The Papuan genomes demonstrate a relative prevalence of Neanderthal alleles in genes responsible for the regulation of transcription and neurogenesis. The enrichment of specific functional groups with Denisovan alleles is less pronounced; these groups are responsible for bone and tissue remodeling. This analysis shows that introgression of alleles from Neanderthals and Denisovans to Papuans occurred independently and retention of these alleles may carry specific adaptive advantages.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Wolf D, Kolb T, Alcaraz-Castaño M, et al (2018)

Climate deteriorations and Neanderthal demise in interior Iberia.

Scientific reports, 8(1):7048 pii:10.1038/s41598-018-25343-6.

Time and circumstances for the disappearance of Neanderthals and its relationship with the advent of Modern Humans are not yet sufficiently resolved, especially in case of the Iberian Peninsula. Reconstructing palaeoenvironmental conditions during the last glacial period is crucial to clarifying whether climate deteriorations or competition and contacts with Modern Humans played the pivotal role in driving Neanderthals to extinction. A high-resolution loess record from the Upper Tagus Basin in central Spain demonstrates that the Neanderthal abandonment of inner Iberian territories 42 kyr ago coincided with the evolvement of hostile environmental conditions, while archaeological evidence testifies that this desertion took place regardless of modern humans' activities. According to stratigraphic findings and stable isotope analyses, this period corresponded to the driest environmental conditions of the last glacial apart from an even drier period linked to Heinrich Stadial 3. Our results show that during Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 4 and 2 climate deteriorations in interior Iberia temporally coincided with northern hemisphere cold periods (Heinrich stadials). Solely during the middle MIS 3, in a period surrounding 42 kyr ago, this relation seems not straightforward, which may demonstrate the complexity of terrestrial climate conditions during glacial periods.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-07-30

Majkić A, d'Errico F, V Stepanchuk (2018)

Assessing the significance of Palaeolithic engraved cortexes. A case study from the Mousterian site of Kiik-Koba, Crimea.

PloS one, 13(5):e0195049 pii:PONE-D-17-43364.

Twenty-Seven Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites from Europe and the Middle East are reported in the literature to have yielded incised stones. At eleven of these sites incisions are present on flint cortexes. Even when it is possible to demonstrate that the engravings are ancient and human made, it is often difficult to distinguish incisions resulting from functional activities such as butchery or use as a cutting board, from those produced deliberately, and even more difficult to identify the scope of the latter. In this paper we present results of the analysis of an engraved cortical flint flake found at Kiik-Koba, a key Mousterian site from Crimea, and create an interpretative framework to guide the interpretation of incised cortexes. The frame of inference that we propose allows for a reasoned evaluation of the actions playing a role in the marking process and aims at narrowing down the interpretation of the evidence. The object comes from layer IV, the same layer in which a Neanderthal child burial was unearthed, which contains a para-Micoquian industry of Kiik-Koba type dated to between c.35 and 37 cal kyr BP. The microscopic analysis and 3D reconstruction of the grooves on the cortex of this small flint flake, demonstrate that the incisions represent a deliberate engraving made by a skilled craftsman, probably with two different points. The lines are nearly perfectly framed into the cortex, testifying of well controlled motions. This is especially the case considering the small size of the object, which makes this a difficult task. The production of the engraving required excellent neuromotor and volitional control, which implies focused attention. Evaluation of the Kiik-Koba evidence in the light of the proposed interpretative framework supports the view that the engraving was made with a representational intent.

RevDate: 2018-07-17

Terhune CE, Ritzman TB, CA Robinson (2018)

Mandibular ramus shape variation and ontogeny in Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis.

Journal of human evolution, 121:55-71.

As the interface between the mandible and cranium, the mandibular ramus is functionally significant and its morphology has been suggested to be informative for taxonomic and phylogenetic analyses. In primates, and particularly in great apes and humans, ramus morphology is highly variable, especially in the shape of the coronoid process and the relationship of the ramus to the alveolar margin. Here we compare ramus shape variation through ontogeny in Homo neanderthalensis to that of modern and fossil Homo sapiens using geometric morphometric analyses of two-dimensional semilandmarks and univariate measurements of ramus angulation and relative coronoid and condyle height. Results suggest that ramus, especially coronoid, morphology varies within and among subadult and adult modern human populations, with the Alaskan Inuit being particularly distinct. We also identify significant differences in overall anterosuperior ramus and coronoid shapes between H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis, both in adults and throughout ontogeny. These shape differences are subtle, however, and we therefore suggest caution when using ramus morphology to diagnose group membership for individual specimens of these taxa. Furthermore, we argue that these morphologies are unlikely to be representative of differences in masticatory biomechanics and/or paramasticatory behaviors between Neanderthals and modern humans, as has been suggested by previous authors. Assessments of ontogenetic patterns of shape change reveal that the typical Neanderthal ramus morphology is established early in ontogeny, and there is little evidence for divergent postnatal ontogenetic allometric trajectories between Neanderthals and modern humans as a whole. This analysis informs our understanding of intraspecific patterns of mandibular shape variation and ontogeny in H. sapiens and can shed further light on overall developmental and life history differences between H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Kochiyama T, Ogihara N, Tanabe HC, et al (2018)

Reconstructing the Neanderthal brain using computational anatomy.

Scientific reports, 8(1):6296 pii:10.1038/s41598-018-24331-0.

The present study attempted to reconstruct 3D brain shape of Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens based on computational neuroanatomy. We found that early Homo sapiens had relatively larger cerebellar hemispheres but a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum than Neanderthals long before the time that Neanderthals disappeared. Further, using behavioural and structural imaging data of living humans, the abilities such as cognitive flexibility, attention, the language processing, episodic and working memory capacity were positively correlated with size-adjusted cerebellar volume. As the cerebellar hemispheres are structured as a large array of uniform neural modules, a larger cerebellum may possess a larger capacity for cognitive information processing. Such a neuroanatomical difference in the cerebellum may have caused important differences in cognitive and social abilities between the two species and might have contributed to the replacement of Neanderthals by early Homo sapiens.

RevDate: 2018-06-27
CmpDate: 2018-06-27

Lawler A (2018)

Searching for a Stone Age Odysseus.

Science (New York, N.Y.), 360(6387):362-363.

RevDate: 2018-04-24

Power RC, Salazar-García DC, Rubini M, et al (2018)

Dental calculus indicates widespread plant use within the stable Neanderthal dietary niche.

Journal of human evolution, 119:27-41.

The ecology of Neanderthals is a pressing question in the study of hominin evolution. Diet appears to have played a prominent role in their adaptation to Eurasia. Based on isotope and zooarchaeological studies, Neanderthal diet has been reconstructed as heavily meat-based and generally similar across different environments. This image persists, despite recent studies suggesting more plant use and more variation. However, we have only a fragmentary picture of their dietary ecology, and how it may have varied among habitats, because we lack broad and environmentally representative information about their use of plants and other foods. To address the problem, we examined the plant microremains in Neanderthal dental calculus from five archaeological sites representing a variety of environments from the northern Balkans, and the western, central and eastern Mediterranean. The recovered microremains revealed the consumption of a variety of non-animal foods, including starchy plants. Using a modeling approach, we explored the relationships among microremains and environment, while controlling for chronology. In the process, we compared the effectiveness of various diversity metrics and their shortcomings for studying microbotanical remains, which are often morphologically redundant for identification. We developed Minimum Botanical Units as a new way of estimating how many plant types or parts are present in a microbotanical sample. In contrast to some previous work, we found no evidence that plant use is confined to the southern-most areas of Neanderthal distribution. Although interpreting the ecogeographic variation is limited by the incomplete preservation of dietary microremains, it is clear that plant exploitation was a widespread and deeply rooted Neanderthal subsistence strategy, even if they were predominately game hunters. Given the limited dietary variation across Neanderthal range in time and space in both plant and animal food exploitation, we argue that vegetal consumption was a feature of a generally static dietary niche.

RevDate: 2018-11-29

Profico A, Schlager S, Valoriani V, et al (2018)

Reproducing the internal and external anatomy of fossil bones: Two new automatic digital tools.

American journal of physical anthropology, 166(4):979-986.

OBJECTIVES: We present two new automatic tools, developed under the R environment, to reproduce the internal and external structures of bony elements. The first method, Computer-Aided Laser Scanner Emulator (CA-LSE), provides the reconstruction of the external portions of a 3D mesh by simulating the action of a laser scanner. The second method, Automatic Segmentation Tool for 3D objects (AST-3D), performs the digital reconstruction of anatomical cavities.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We present the application of CA-LSE and AST-3D methods to different anatomical remains, highly variable in terms of shape, size and structure: a modern human skull, a malleus bone, and a Neanderthal deciduous tooth. Both methods are developed in the R environment and embedded in the packages "Arothron" and "Morpho," where both the codes and the data are fully available.

RESULTS: The application of CA-LSE and AST-3D allows the isolation and manipulation of the internal and external components of the 3D virtual representation of complex bony elements. In particular, we present the output of the four case studies: a complete modern human endocast and the right maxillary sinus, the dental pulp of the Neanderthal tooth and the inner network of blood vessels of the malleus.

DISCUSSION: Both methods demonstrated to be much faster, cheaper, and more accurate than other conventional approaches. The tools we presented are available as add-ons in existing software within the R platform. Because of ease of application, and unrestrained availability of the methods proposed, these tools can be widely used by paleoanthropologists, paleontologists and anatomists.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-07-16

Marín-Arroyo AB, Rios-Garaizar J, Straus LG, et al (2018)

Chronological reassessment of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition and Early Upper Paleolithic cultures in Cantabrian Spain.

PloS one, 13(4):e0194708 pii:PONE-D-17-29779.

Methodological advances in dating the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition provide a better understanding of the replacement of local Neanderthal populations by Anatomically Modern Humans. Today we know that this replacement was not a single, pan-European event, but rather it took place at different times in different regions. Thus, local conditions could have played a role. Iberia represents a significant macro-region to study this process. Northern Atlantic Spain contains evidence of both Mousterian and Early Upper Paleolithic occupations, although most of them are not properly dated, thus hindering the chances of an adequate interpretation. Here we present 46 new radiocarbon dates conducted using ultrafiltration pre-treatment method of anthropogenically manipulated bones from 13 sites in the Cantabrian region containing Mousterian, Aurignacian and Gravettian levels, of which 30 are considered relevant. These dates, alongside previously reported ones, were integrated into a Bayesian age model to reconstruct an absolute timescale for the transitional period. According to it, the Mousterian disappeared in the region by 47.9-45.1ka cal BP, while the Châtelperronian lasted between 42.6k and 41.5ka cal BP. The Mousterian and Châtelperronian did not overlap, indicating that the latter might be either intrusive or an offshoot of the Mousterian. The new chronology also suggests that the Aurignacian appears between 43.3-40.5ka cal BP overlapping with the Châtelperronian, and ended around 34.6-33.1ka cal BP, after the Gravettian had already been established in the region. This evidence indicates that Neanderthals and AMH co-existed <1,000 years, with the caveat that no diagnostic human remains have been found with the latest Mousterian, Châtelperronian or earliest Aurignacian in Cantabrian Spain.

RevDate: 2018-11-29

Bible RC, AT Peterson (2018)

Compatible ecological niche signals between biological and archaeological datasets for late-surviving Neandertals.

American journal of physical anthropology, 166(4):968-974.

OBJECTIVES: To assess ecological niche similarity for biological and archaeological samples representing late-surviving Neandertals in Europe to evaluate the validity of combining these two types of data in ecological niche modeling analyses.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Tests of niche conservatism were used to assess niche similarity and niche identity of samples of morphologically diagnostic Neandertal remains and Middle Paleolithic (MP) archaeological sites dating to the time period leading up to Neandertal extinction. Paleoenvironmental reconstructions for the Pre-H4 (43.3-40.2 ky cal BP) were used as environmental space analyses.

RESULTS: Null hypotheses of niche similarity and identity of the two types of samples could not be rejected.

CONCLUSIONS: As primary and secondary evidence of Neandertal occurrence during the Pre-H4 show high levels of niche similarity and identity, combining the two types of occurrence data to create larger samples for niche analyses is justified without the concern that different environmental signals could complicate future research.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Viscardi LH, Paixão-Côrtes VR, Comas D, et al (2018)

Searching for ancient balanced polymorphisms shared between Neanderthals and Modern Humans.

Genetics and molecular biology, 41(1):67-81.

Hominin evolution is characterized by adaptive solutions often rooted in behavioral and cognitive changes. If balancing selection had an important and long-lasting impact on the evolution of these traits, it can be hypothesized that genes associated with them should carry an excess of shared polymorphisms (trans- SNPs) across recent Homo species. In this study, we investigate the role of balancing selection in human evolution using available exomes from modern (Homo sapiens) and archaic humans (H. neanderthalensis and Denisovan) for an excess of trans-SNP in two gene sets: one associated with the immune system (IMMS) and another one with behavioral system (BEHS). We identified a significant excess of trans-SNPs in IMMS (N=547), of which six of these located within genes previously associated with schizophrenia. No excess of trans-SNPs was found in BEHS, but five genes in this system harbor potential signals for balancing selection and are associated with psychiatric or neurodevelopmental disorders. Our approach evidenced recent Homo trans-SNPs that have been previously implicated in psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia, suggesting that a genetic repertoire common to the immune and behavioral systems could have been maintained by balancing selection starting before the split between archaic and modern humans.

RevDate: 2018-06-05

García-Tabernero A, Peña-Melián A, A Rosas (2018)

Primary visual cortex in neandertals as revealed from the occipital remains from the El Sidrón site, with emphasis on the new SD-2300 specimen.

Journal of anatomy, 233(1):33-45.

The comparative analysis of the endocranial surface of the El Sidrón new occipital fragment SD-2300 shows meaningful differences in the configuration of the occipital pole region between neandertals and anatomically modern humans (AMH). The particular asymmetries found in neandertals in the venous sinus drainage and the petalial patterns are recognizable in this new specimen as well. In addition, the supra- and infracalcarine fossae of the occipital pole region appear to deviate obliquely from the mid-line when compared with sapiens. Due to the excellent preservation conditions of SD-2300, the main sulci and gyri of the occipital pole area have been identified, this degree of detail being uncommon in a fossil specimen; in general, the gyrification pattern is similar to AMH, but with some notable differences. Particularly interesting is the description of the lunate and the calcarine sulci. The lunate sulcus is located close to the occipital pole, in a similar posterior position to in other Homo species. Regarding the calcarine sulcus, there are significant differences in the primary visual cortex, with the V1 area, or Brodmann area 17, being larger in Homo neanderthalensis than in Homo sapiens. This may lead to greater visual acuity in neandertals than in sapiens.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Wroe S, Parr WCH, Ledogar JA, et al (2018)

Computer simulations show that Neanderthal facial morphology represents adaptation to cold and high energy demands, but not heavy biting.

Proceedings. Biological sciences, 285(1876):.

Three adaptive hypotheses have been forwarded to explain the distinctive Neanderthal face: (i) an improved ability to accommodate high anterior bite forces, (ii) more effective conditioning of cold and/or dry air and, (iii) adaptation to facilitate greater ventilatory demands. We test these hypotheses using three-dimensional models of Neanderthals, modern humans, and a close outgroup (Homo heidelbergensis), applying finite-element analysis (FEA) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD). This is the most comprehensive application of either approach applied to date and the first to include both. FEA reveals few differences between H. heidelbergensis, modern humans, and Neanderthals in their capacities to sustain high anterior tooth loadings. CFD shows that the nasal cavities of Neanderthals and especially modern humans condition air more efficiently than does that of H. heidelbergensis, suggesting that both evolved to better withstand cold and/or dry climates than less derived Homo We further find that Neanderthals could move considerably more air through the nasal pathway than could H. heidelbergensis or modern humans, consistent with the propositions that, relative to our outgroup Homo, Neanderthal facial morphology evolved to reflect improved capacities to better condition cold, dry air, and, to move greater air volumes in response to higher energetic requirements.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-08-24

Egeland CP, Domínguez-Rodrigo M, Pickering TR, et al (2018)

Hominin skeletal part abundances and claims of deliberate disposal of corpses in the Middle Pleistocene.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(18):4601-4606.

Humans are set apart from other organisms by the realization of their own mortality. Thus, determining the prehistoric emergence of this capacity is of significant interest to understanding the uniqueness of the human animal. Tracing that capacity chronologically is possible through archaeological investigations that focus on physical markers that reflect "mortality salience." Among these markers is the deliberate and culturally mediated disposal of corpses. Some Neandertal bone assemblages are among the earliest reasonable claims for the deliberate disposal of hominins, but even these are vigorously debated. More dramatic assertions center on the Middle Pleistocene sites of Sima de los Huesos (SH, Spain) and the Dinaledi Chamber (DC, South Africa), where the remains of multiple hominin individuals were found in deep caves, and under reported taphonomic circumstances that seem to discount the possibility that nonhominin actors and processes contributed to their formation. These claims, with significant implications for charting the evolution of the "human condition," deserve scrutiny. We test these assertions through machine-learning analyses of hominin skeletal part representation in the SH and DC assemblages. Our results indicate that nonanthropogenic agents and abiotic processes cannot yet be ruled out as significant contributors to the ultimate condition of both collections. This finding does not falsify hypotheses of deliberate disposal for the SH and DC corpses, but does indicate that the data also support partially or completely nonanthropogenic formational histories.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-10-02

Zehra R, AA Abbasi (2018)

Homo sapiens-Specific Binding Site Variants within Brain Exclusive Enhancers Are Subject to Accelerated Divergence across Human Population.

Genome biology and evolution, 10(3):956-966.

Empirical assessments of human accelerated noncoding DNA frgaments have delineated presence of many cis-regulatory elements. Enhancers make up an important category of such accelerated cis-regulatory elements that efficiently control the spatiotemporal expression of many developmental genes. Establishing plausible reasons for accelerated enhancer sequence divergence in Homo sapiens has been termed significant in various previously published studies. This acceleration by including closely related primates and archaic human data has the potential to open up evolutionary avenues for deducing present-day brain structure. This study relied on empirically confirmed brain exclusive enhancers to avoid any misjudgments about their regulatory status and categorized among them a subset of enhancers with an exceptionally accelerated rate of lineage specific divergence in humans. In this assorted set, 13 distinct transcription factor binding sites were located that possessed unique existence in humans. Three of 13 such sites belonging to transcription factors SOX2, RUNX1/3, and FOS/JUND possessed single nucleotide variants that made them unique to H. sapiens upon comparisons with Neandertal and Denisovan orthologous sequences. These variants modifying the binding sites in modern human lineage were further substantiated as single nucleotide polymorphisms via exploiting 1000 Genomes Project Phase3 data. Long range haplotype based tests laid out evidence of positive selection to be governing in African population on two of the modern human motif modifying alleles with strongest results for SOX2 binding site. In sum, our study acknowledges acceleration in noncoding regulatory landscape of the genome and highlights functional parts within it to have undergone accelerated divergence in present-day human population.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Steinrücken M, Spence JP, Kamm JA, et al (2018)

Model-based detection and analysis of introgressed Neanderthal ancestry in modern humans.

Molecular ecology, 27(19):3873-3888.

Genetic evidence has revealed that the ancestors of modern human populations outside Africa and their hominin sister groups, notably Neanderthals, exchanged genetic material in the past. The distribution of these introgressed sequence tracts along modern-day human genomes provides insight into the selective forces acting on them and the role of introgression in the evolutionary history of hominins. Studying introgression patterns on the X-chromosome is of particular interest, as sex chromosomes are thought to play a special role in speciation. Recent studies have developed methods to localize introgressed ancestries, reporting long regions that are depleted of Neanderthal introgression and enriched in genes, suggesting negative selection against the Neanderthal variants. On the other hand, enriched Neanderthal ancestry in hair- and skin-related genes suggests that some introgressed variants facilitated adaptation to new environments. Here, we present a model-based introgression detection method called dical-admix. We demonstrate its efficiency and accuracy through extensive simulations and apply it to detect tracts of Neanderthal introgression in modern human individuals from the 1000 Genomes Project. Our findings are largely concordant with previous studies, consistent with weak selection against Neanderthal ancestry. We find evidence that selection against Neanderthal ancestry was due to higher genetic load in Neanderthals resulting from small effective population size, rather than widespread Dobzhansky-Müller incompatibilities (DMIs) that could contribute to reproductive isolation. Moreover, we confirm the previously reported low level of introgression on the X-chromosome, but find little evidence that DMIs contributed to this pattern.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-07-24

Rios-Garaizar J, López-Bultó O, Iriarte E, et al (2018)

A Middle Palaeolithic wooden digging stick from Aranbaltza III, Spain.

PloS one, 13(3):e0195044 pii:PONE-D-17-36262.

Aranbaltza is an archaeological complex formed by at least three open-air sites. Between 2014 and 2015 a test excavation carried out in Aranbaltza III revealed the presence of a sand and clay sedimentary sequence formed in floodplain environments, within which six sedimentary units have been identified. This sequence was formed between 137-50 ka, and includes several archaeological horizons, attesting to the long-term presence of Neanderthal communities in this area. One of these horizons, corresponding with Unit 4, yielded two wooden tools. One of these tools is a beveled pointed tool that was shaped through a complex operational sequence involving branch shaping, bark peeling, twig removal, shaping, polishing, thermal exposition and chopping. A use-wear analysis of the tool shows it to have traces related with digging soil so it has been interpreted as representing a digging stick. This is the first time such a tool has been identified in a European Late Middle Palaeolithic context; it also represents one of the first well-preserved Middle Palaeolithic wooden tool found in southern Europe. This artefact represents one of the few examples available of wooden tool preservation for the European Palaeolithic, allowing us to further explore the role wooden technologies played in Neanderthal communities.

RevDate: 2018-04-03
CmpDate: 2018-04-03

Rosas A, Ríos L, Estalrrich A, et al (2018)

Response to Comment on "The growth pattern of Neandertals, reconstructed from a juvenile skeleton from El Sidrón (Spain)".

Science (New York, N.Y.), 359(6380):.

The comment by DeSilva challenges our suggestion that brain growth of the El Sidrón J1 Neandertal was still incomplete at 7.7 years of age. Evidence suggests that endocranial volume is likely to represent less than 90% adult size at El Sidrón as well as Neandertal male plus Krapina samples, in line with further evidence from endocranial surface histology and dural sinus groove size.

RevDate: 2018-04-03
CmpDate: 2018-04-03

DeSilva JM (2018)

Comment on "The growth pattern of Neandertals, reconstructed from a juvenile skeleton from El Sidrón (Spain)".

Science (New York, N.Y.), 359(6380):.

Rosas et al (Reports, 22 September 2017, p. 1282) calculate El Sidrón J1 to have reached only 87.5% of its adult brain size. This finding is based on an overestimation of Neandertal brain size. Pairwise comparisons with a larger sample of Neandertal fossils reveal that it is unlikely that the brain of El Sidrón would have grown appreciably larger.

RevDate: 2018-03-23

Vernot B, S Pääbo (2018)

The Predecessors Within . . .

Cell, 173(1):6-7.

By examining the genomes of present-day people from Asia, researchers show that modern humans met and interbred with Denisovans, distant relatives to Neanderthals, on at least two occasions. As a result, people today carry DNA from two different Denisovan populations.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-08-15

Hajdinjak M, Fu Q, Hübner A, et al (2018)

Reconstructing the genetic history of late Neanderthals.

Nature, 555(7698):652-656.

Although it has previously been shown that Neanderthals contributed DNA to modern humans, not much is known about the genetic diversity of Neanderthals or the relationship between late Neanderthal populations at the time at which their last interactions with early modern humans occurred and before they eventually disappeared. Our ability to retrieve DNA from a larger number of Neanderthal individuals has been limited by poor preservation of endogenous DNA and contamination of Neanderthal skeletal remains by large amounts of microbial and present-day human DNA. Here we use hypochlorite treatment of as little as 9 mg of bone or tooth powder to generate between 1- and 2.7-fold genomic coverage of five Neanderthals who lived around 39,000 to 47,000 years ago (that is, late Neanderthals), thereby doubling the number of Neanderthals for which genome sequences are available. Genetic similarity among late Neanderthals is well predicted by their geographical location, and comparison to the genome of an older Neanderthal from the Caucasus indicates that a population turnover is likely to have occurred, either in the Caucasus or throughout Europe, towards the end of Neanderthal history. We find that the bulk of Neanderthal gene flow into early modern humans originated from one or more source populations that diverged from the Neanderthals that were studied here at least 70,000 years ago, but after they split from a previously sequenced Neanderthal from Siberia around 150,000 years ago. Although four of the Neanderthals studied here post-date the putative arrival of early modern humans into Europe, we do not detect any recent gene flow from early modern humans in their ancestry.

RevDate: 2018-11-14
CmpDate: 2018-06-22

Schlager S, Profico A, Di Vincenzo F, et al (2018)

Retrodeformation of fossil specimens based on 3D bilateral semi-landmarks: Implementation in the R package "Morpho".

PloS one, 13(3):e0194073 pii:PONE-D-17-26871.

Many fossil specimens exhibit deformations caused by taphonomic processes. Due to these deformations, even important specimens have to be excluded from morphometric analyses, impoverishing an already poor paleontological record. Techniques to retrodeform and virtually restore damaged (i.e. deformed) specimens are available, but these methods genenerally imply the use of a sparse set of bilateral landmarks, ignoring the fact that the distribution and amount of control points directly affects the result of the retrodeformation. We propose a method developed in the R environment and available in the R-package "Morpho" that, in addition to the landmark configurations, also allows using a set of semi-landmarks homogeneously distributed along curves and on surfaces. We evaluated the outcome of the retrodeformation, regarding the number of semi-landmarks used and its robustness against asymmetric noise, based on simulations using a virtually deformed gorilla cranium. Finally, we applied the method to a well-known Neanderthal cranium that exhibits signs of taphonomically induced asymmetry.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Browning SR, Browning BL, Zhou Y, et al (2018)

Analysis of Human Sequence Data Reveals Two Pulses of Archaic Denisovan Admixture.

Cell, 173(1):53-61.e9.

Anatomically modern humans interbred with Neanderthals and with a related archaic population known as Denisovans. Genomes of several Neanderthals and one Denisovan have been sequenced, and these reference genomes have been used to detect introgressed genetic material in present-day human genomes. Segments of introgression also can be detected without use of reference genomes, and doing so can be advantageous for finding introgressed segments that are less closely related to the sequenced archaic genomes. We apply a new reference-free method for detecting archaic introgression to 5,639 whole-genome sequences from Eurasia and Oceania. We find Denisovan ancestry in populations from East and South Asia and Papuans. Denisovan ancestry comprises two components with differing similarity to the sequenced Altai Denisovan individual. This indicates that at least two distinct instances of Denisovan admixture into modern humans occurred, involving Denisovan populations that had different levels of relatedness to the sequenced Altai Denisovan. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

RevDate: 2018-03-16

Gómez-Olivencia A, Quam R, Sala N, et al (2018)

La Ferrassie 1: New perspectives on a "classic" Neandertal.

Journal of human evolution, 117:13-32.

The La Ferrassie 1 (LF1) skeleton, discovered over a century ago, is one of the most important Neandertal individuals both for its completeness and due to the role it has played historically in the interpretation of Neandertal anatomy and lifeways. Here we present new skeletal remains from this individual, which include a complete right middle ear ossicular chain (malleus, incus, and stapes), three vertebral fragments, and two costal remains. Additionally, the study of the skeleton has allowed us to identify new pathological lesions, including a congenital variant in the atlas, a greenstick fracture of the left clavicle, and a lesion in a mid-thoracic rib of unknown etiology. In addition, we have quantified the amount of vertebral pathology, which is greater than previously appreciated. We have complemented the paleopathological analysis with a taphonomic analysis to identify any potential perimortem fractures. The taphonomic analysis indicates that no surface alteration is present in the LF1 skeleton and that the breakage pattern is that of bone that has lost collagen, which would be consistent with the intentional burial of this individual proposed by previous researchers. In this study, we used CT and microCT scans in order to discover new skeletal elements to better characterize the pathological lesions and to quantify the fracture orientation of those bones in which the current plaster reconstruction did not allow its direct visualization, which underlines the broad potential of imaging technologies in paleoanthropological research. A century after its discovery, LF1 is still providing new insights into Neandertal anatomy and behavior.

RevDate: 2018-03-16

Rodríguez L, Carretero JM, García-González R, et al (2018)

Cross-sectional properties of the lower limb long bones in the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos sample (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain).

Journal of human evolution, 117:1-12.

The recovery to date of three complete and five partial femora, seven complete tibiae, and four complete fibulae from the Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos site provides an opportunity to analyze the biomechanical cross-sectional properties in this Middle Pleistocene population and to compare them with those of other fossil hominins and recent modern humans. We have performed direct comparisons of the cross-sectional geometric parameters and reduced major axis (RMA) regression lines among different samples. We have determined that Atapuerca Sima de los Huesos (SH) fossils have significantly thicker cortices than those of recent modern humans for the three leg bones at all diaphyseal levels, except that of the femur at 35% of biomechanical length. The SH bones are similar to those of Neandertals and Middle Pleistocene humans and different from Homo sapiens in their diaphyseal cross-sectional shape and strength parameters. When standardized by estimated body size, both the SH and Neandertal leg bones have in general greater strength than those of H. sapiens from the early modern (EMH), Upper Paleolithic (UP), and recent populations (RH). The Sima de los Huesos human leg bones have, in general terms, an ancestral pattern similar to that of Pleistocene humans and differing from H. sapiens.

RevDate: 2018-07-26

Anonymous (2018)

Correction for Hoffecker, The complexity of Neanderthal technology.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(13):E3066.

RevDate: 2018-11-14

Hoffmann DL, Angelucci DE, Villaverde V, et al (2018)

Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals 115,000 years ago.

Science advances, 4(2):eaar5255 pii:aar5255.

Cueva de los Aviones (southeast Spain) is a site of the Neandertal-associated Middle Paleolithic of Europe. It has yielded ochred and perforated marine shells, red and yellow colorants, and shell containers that feature residues of complex pigmentatious mixtures. Similar finds from the Middle Stone Age of South Africa have been widely accepted as archaeological proxies for symbolic behavior. U-series dating of the flowstone capping the Cueva de los Aviones deposit shows that the symbolic finds made therein are 115,000 to 120,000 years old and predate the earliest known comparable evidence associated with modern humans by 20,000 to 40,000 years. Given our findings, it is possible that the roots of symbolic material culture may be found among the common ancestor of Neandertals and modern humans, more than half-a-million years ago.

RevDate: 2018-03-02

Gómez-Olivencia A, Holliday T, Madelaine S, et al (2018)

The costal skeleton of the Regourdou 1 Neandertal.

Journal of human evolution pii:S0047-2484(17)30305-6 [Epub ahead of print].

The morphology and size of the Neandertal thorax is a subject of growing interest due to its link to general aspects of body size and shape, including physiological aspects related to bioenergetics and activity budgets. However, the number of well-preserved adult Neandertal costal remains is still low. The recent finding of new additional costal remains from the Regourdou 1 (R1) skeleton has rendered this skeleton as one of the most complete Neandertal costal skeletons with a minimum of 18 ribs represented, five of which are complete or virtually complete. Here we describe for the first time all the rib remains from R1 and compare them to a large modern Euroamerican male sample as well as to other published Neandertal individuals. The costal skeleton of this individual shows significant metric and morphological differences from our modern human male comparative sample. The perceived differences include: dorsoventrally large 1st and 2nd ribs, 3rd ribs with a very closed dorsal curvature and large maximum diameters at the posterior angle, a large tubercle-iliocostal line distance in the 4th rib, thick shafts at the dorsal end of its 6th ribs, thick mid-shafts of the 8th ribs, large articular tubercles at the 9th ribs, and thick shafts of the 11th and 12th ribs. Here we also describe a new mesosternal fragment: the left lateral half of sternebral segments 4 and 5. This portion reveals that the mesosternum of R1 had a sternal foramen in its inferiormost preserved sternal segment and supports previous estimation of the total length of this mesosternum. The new costal remains from R1 support the view that Neandertals, when compared with modern humans, show a significantly different thorax, consistent with differences found in other anatomical regions such as the vertebral column and pelvis.

RevDate: 2018-02-25

Warren KA, Ritzman TB, Humphreys RA, et al (2018)

Craniomandibular form and body size variation of first generation mouse hybrids: A model for hominin hybridization.

Journal of human evolution, 116:57-74.

Hybridization occurs in a number of mammalian lineages, including among primate taxa. Analyses of ancient genomes have shown that hybridization between our lineage and other archaic hominins in Eurasia occurred numerous times in the past. However, we still have limited empirical data on what a hybrid skeleton looks like, or how to spot patterns of hybridization among fossils for which there are no genetic data. Here we use experimental mouse models to supplement previous studies of primates. We characterize size and shape variation in the cranium and mandible of three wild-derived inbred mouse strains and their first generation (F1) hybrids. The three parent taxa in our analysis represent lineages that diverged over approximately the same period as the human/Neanderthal/Denisovan lineages and their hybrids are variably successful in the wild. Comparisons of body size, as quantified by long bone measurements, are also presented to determine whether the identified phenotypic effects of hybridization are localized to the cranium or represent overall body size changes. The results indicate that hybrid cranial and mandibular sizes, as well as limb length, exceed that of the parent taxa in all cases. All three F1 hybrid crosses display similar patterns of size and form variation. These results are generally consistent with earlier studies on primates and other mammals, suggesting that the effects of hybridization may be similar across very different scenarios of hybridization, including different levels of hybrid fitness. This paper serves to supplement previous studies aimed at identifying F1 hybrids in the fossil record and to introduce further research that will explore hybrid morphologies using mice as a proxy for better understanding hybridization in the hominin fossil record.

RevDate: 2018-04-17
CmpDate: 2018-04-17

Hoffmann DL, Standish CD, García-Diez M, et al (2018)

U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art.

Science (New York, N.Y.), 359(6378):912-915.

The extent and nature of symbolic behavior among Neandertals are obscure. Although evidence for Neandertal body ornamentation has been proposed, all cave painting has been attributed to modern humans. Here we present dating results for three sites in Spain that show that cave art emerged in Iberia substantially earlier than previously thought. Uranium-thorium (U-Th) dates on carbonate crusts overlying paintings provide minimum ages for a red linear motif in La Pasiega (Cantabria), a hand stencil in Maltravieso (Extremadura), and red-painted speleothems in Ardales (Andalucía). Collectively, these results show that cave art in Iberia is older than 64.8 thousand years (ka). This cave art is the earliest dated so far and predates, by at least 20 ka, the arrival of modern humans in Europe, which implies Neandertal authorship.

RevDate: 2018-04-17
CmpDate: 2018-04-17

Appenzeller T (2018)

Europe's first artists were Neandertals.

Science (New York, N.Y.), 359(6378):852-853.

RevDate: 2018-02-15

Li F, Kuhn SL, Chen F, et al (2018)

The easternmost Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) from Jinsitai Cave, North China.

Journal of human evolution, 114:76-84.

The dispersal of Neanderthals and their genetic and cultural interactions with anatomically modern humans and other hominin populations in Eurasia are critical issues in human evolution research. Neither Neanderthal fossils nor typical Mousterian assemblages have been reported in East Asia to date. Here we report on artifact assemblages comparable to western Eurasian Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) at Jinsitai, a cave site in North China. The lithic industry at Jinsitai appeared at least 47-42 ka and persisted until around 40-37 ka. These findings expand the geographic range of the Mousterian-like industries at least 2000 km further to the east than what has been previously recognized. This discovery supplies a missing part of the picture of Middle Paleolithic distribution in Eurasia and also demonstrates the makers' capacity to adapt to diverse geographic regions and habitats of Eurasia.

RevDate: 2018-02-15

Kivell TL, Rosas A, Estalrrich A, et al (2018)

New Neandertal wrist bones from El Sidrón, Spain (1994-2009).

Journal of human evolution, 114:45-75.

Twenty-nine carpal bones of Homo neanderthalensis have been recovered from the site of El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) during excavations between 1994 and 2009, alongside ∼2500 other Neandertal skeletal elements dated to ∼49,000 years ago. All bones of the wrist are represented, including adult scaphoids (n = 6), lunates (n = 2), triquetra (n = 4), pisiforms (n = 2), trapezia (n = 2), trapezoids (n = 5), capitates (n = 5), and hamates (n = 2), as well as one fragmentary and possibly juvenile scaphoid. Several of these carpals appear to belong to the complete right wrist of a single individual. Here we provide qualitative and quantitative morphological descriptions of these carpals, within a comparative context of other European and Near Eastern Neandertals, early and recent Homo sapiens, and other fossil hominins, including Homo antecessor, Homo naledi, and australopiths. Overall, the El Sidrón carpals show characteristics that typically distinguish Neandertals from H. sapiens, such as a relatively flat first metacarpal facet on the trapezium and a more laterally oriented second metacarpal facet on the capitate. However, there are some distinctive features of the El Sidrón carpals compared with most other Neandertals. For example, the tubercle of the trapezium is small with limited projection, while the scaphoid tubercle and hamate hamulus are among the largest seen in other Neandertals. Furthermore, three of the six adult scaphoids show a distinctive os-centrale portion, while another is a bipartite scaphoid with a truncated tubercle. The high frequency of rare carpal morphologies supports other evidence of a close genetic relationship among the Neandertals found at El Sidrón.

RevDate: 2018-03-02
CmpDate: 2018-03-02

O'Driscoll CA, JC Thompson (2018)

The origins and early elaboration of projectile technology.

Evolutionary anthropology, 27(1):30-45.

The ability of Homo sapiens to kill prey at a distance is arguably one of the catalysts for our current ecological dominance. Many researchers have suggested its origins lie in the African Middle Stone Age or the European Middle Palaeolithic (∼300-30 thousand years ago), but the perishable components of armatures rarely preserve. Most research on this subject therefore emphasises analysis of armature tip size, shape, and diagnostic impacts or residues. Other lines of evidence have included human skeletal anatomy or analyses of the species composition of faunal assemblages. Projectile Impact Marks (PIMs) on archaeofaunal remains offer an ideal complement to this work, but their potential has been restricted mainly to the later Eurasian zooarchaeological record. A review of current evidence and approaches shows that systematic PIM research could add much to our understanding of early projectile technology, especially in Africa.


RJR Experience and Expertise


Robbins holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in the life sciences. He served as a tenured faculty member in the Zoology and Biological Science departments at Michigan State University. He is currently exploring the intersection between genomics, microbial ecology, and biodiversity — an area that promises to transform our understanding of the biosphere.


Robbins has extensive experience in college-level education: At MSU he taught introductory biology, genetics, and population genetics. At JHU, he was an instructor for a special course on biological database design. At FHCRC, he team-taught a graduate-level course on the history of genetics. At Bellevue College he taught medical informatics.


Robbins has been involved in science administration at both the federal and the institutional levels. At NSF he was a program officer for database activities in the life sciences, at DOE he was a program officer for information infrastructure in the human genome project. At the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, he served as a vice president for fifteen years.


Robbins has been involved with information technology since writing his first Fortran program as a college student. At NSF he was the first program officer for database activities in the life sciences. At JHU he held an appointment in the CS department and served as director of the informatics core for the Genome Data Base. At the FHCRC he was VP for Information Technology.


While still at Michigan State, Robbins started his first publishing venture, founding a small company that addressed the short-run publishing needs of instructors in very large undergraduate classes. For more than 20 years, Robbins has been operating The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project, a web site dedicated to the digital publishing of critical works in science, especially classical genetics.


Robbins is well-known for his speaking abilities and is often called upon to provide keynote or plenary addresses at international meetings. For example, in July, 2012, he gave a well-received keynote address at the Global Biodiversity Informatics Congress, sponsored by GBIF and held in Copenhagen. The slides from that talk can be seen HERE.


Robbins is a skilled meeting facilitator. He prefers a participatory approach, with part of the meeting involving dynamic breakout groups, created by the participants in real time: (1) individuals propose breakout groups; (2) everyone signs up for one (or more) groups; (3) the groups with the most interested parties then meet, with reports from each group presented and discussed in a subsequent plenary session.


Robbins has been engaged with photography and design since the 1960s, when he worked for a professional photography laboratory. He now prefers digital photography and tools for their precision and reproducibility. He designed his first web site more than 20 years ago and he personally designed and implemented this web site. He engages in graphic design as a hobby.

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The first fossil recognized to be an ancestral human was found in the Neander Valley (thal in German) in 1856. William King suggested Homo neanderthalensis (human from the Neander Valley) as the scientific name for the specimen — hence Neanderthal became the common name by which this early human became known. Now Neanderthal genomes have been sequenced, more is known about their path to extinction, and the existence of Neanderthal culture, including music, has been established. To understand the evolutionary path of the hominid line, one must be familiar with Homo neanderthalensis. These books are highly recommended. R. Robbins

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Collection of publications by R J Robbins

Reprints and preprints of publications, slide presentations, instructional materials, and data compilations written or prepared by Robert Robbins. Most papers deal with computational biology, genome informatics, using information technology to support biomedical research, and related matters.

Research Gate page for R J Robbins

ResearchGate is a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. According to a study by Nature and an article in Times Higher Education , it is the largest academic social network in terms of active users.

Curriculum Vitae for R J Robbins

short personal version

Curriculum Vitae for R J Robbins

long standard version

RJR Picks from Around the Web (updated 11 MAY 2018 )