Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Member of the Human Evolutionary Family: Or, Not

"DNA Reveals New Hominid Ancestor"
Wired Science (March 24, 2010)

"A new member of the human evolutionary family has been proposed for the first time based on an ancient genetic sequence, not fossil bones. Even more surprising, this novel and still mysterious hominid, if confirmed, would have lived near Stone Age Neandertals and Homo sapiens.

" 'It was a shock to find DNA from a new type of ancestor that has not been on our radar screens,' says geneticist Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. These enigmatic hominids left Africa in a previously unsuspected migration around 1 million years ago, a team led by Pääbo and Max Planck graduate student Johannes Krause reports in a paper published online March 24 in Nature.

"The researchers base their claim on DNA from a finger bone belonging to a hominid that lived in the Altai Mountains of central Asia between about 48,000 and 30,000 years ago...."

It's early days, and there isn't anything close to a consensus on what this (apparently) new hominid is, and where they fit in the picture of our origins.

There's a fair amount of detail in the article, about this particular find, what scientists are saying about it, and the ups and downs of genetic paleontology.

I'd say that the bottom line is that we don't know: but we're collecting data.

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