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Back to the garden(S)... origin(S) of mankind(S).
Evidence found of Denisovans interbreeding with humans in Southeast Asia more recently than thought
by Bob Yirka , Phys.org
[Image: caveart.jpg]Credit: CC0 Public Domain
An international team of researchers has found evidence of Denisovans interbreeding with modern humans in Southeast Asia more recently than thought. The group gave a presentation at this year's meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists outlining a genetic study they conducted.

The Denisovans were a species or subspecies of humans that are believed to have lived in Asia and Southeast Asia. Little physical evidence of their existence has ever been found, all of it in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. But much more evidence of them exists in our genes. Like Neanderthals, the Denisovans interbred with humans. It is currently believed that as humans migrated out of Africa, they encountered and mated with Neanderthal—as they moved farther east, they encountered and mated with the Denisovans. In this new effort, the researchers report evidence suggesting Denisovans mated with humans possibly as recently as 15,000 years ago, in Papua New Guinea.
The researchers collected tissue samples from 161 people (representing 14 groups) in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and sequenced their DNA. They report that in the samples from people in New Guinea, they found evidence of Denisovan DNA from populations that were different from those living in the cave in Siberia. They describe them as D1 and D2 (the population in Siberia is described as D0). They report further that D1 and D2 were so distantly related to D0 that they had to have diverged at least 283,000 years ago. They also found that D2 was so distant that it likely split off approximately 363,000 years ago. The researchers suggest such distant divergence makes D1 and D2 as different from D0 as they were from Neanderthals. They also suggest that D2 might even have to be reclassified to give the group its own name. And finally, they reported that they had found evidence of Denisovans interbreeding with modern humans between 30,000 and 15,000 years ago.
Interestingly, Bence Viola, with the University of Toronto, announced at the same conference that two pieces of a braincase found in Denisova Cave back in 2016 had been identified as having come from a Denisovan—the first skull fragment to have been identified as Denisovan.


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A fourth Denisovan fossil has been identified[/size]


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The Tiwanaku Came Before the Incas

By Carol Duff, MSN, BA, RN  April 1, 2019

[Image: artifacts.jpg]
Typical Tiwanaku-period offerings at Khoa Reef in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, including stone carvings and sacrificial animal bones. (Image courtesy of Teddy Seguin) 

Before the Inca Ruled South America, the Tiwanaku Left Their Mark on the Andes

Artifacts including gold medallions and sacrificial llama bones reveal the ritual pilgrimages taken around Lake Titicaca

By Joshua Rapp Learn Smithsonian.Com/Smithsonian Magazine

Hundreds of years before the Inca Empire spread along the Pacific coast of South America, another civilization prospered in parts of what is now Bolivia, northern Chile and southern Peru. The Tiwanaku state, which lasted from about 550 to 950 A.D., was one of three major first-millennium powers in the Andes, but very little archaeological evidence has been found from the Tiwanaku compared to the Incas, whose empire rose to the height of its power in the 15th century.

While much of Tiwanaku’s culture and history remain a mystery today, new archaeological research in the region is starting to fill in some of the gaps. A study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details ancient Tiwanaku artifacts and the remains of sacrificial llamas. Dredged from the high-altitude waters of Lake Titicaca, the objects reveal the underpinnings of Andean rituals that would last for more than a thousand years.

Tiwanaku represents both the name of a pre-Hispanic city found near the southern end of Lake Titicaca, located in what is now Bolivia, and the culture of the surrounding area that the city influenced. The other two regional powers at the time were the Wari and the Moche, both of which controlled territory to the north of Tiwanaku in modern-day Peru.

The Tiwanaku artifacts, including gold medallions and stone carvings, were found in the waters around the lake’s Island of the Sun. Religious iconography and the location of the objects suggest that pilgrimages played an important role in the development of this early empire—a practice that would later be adopted by the Inca civilization.

[Image: ezgifcom-resize_7.jpg]
Spondylus shells and semi-precious stone artifacts collected from the Khoa Reef site. (Image courtesy of Teddy Seguin)


Source: https://www.veteranstoday.com/2019/04/01...the-incas/
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Evidence of New Human Species Found in Philippines
Fossils unearthed in a limestone cavern part of a previously unknown human species that roamed the island about 50,000 years ago


[Image: im-65775?width=620&aspect_ratio=1.5]
The fossil teeth of a newly discovered human species that lived 50,000 years ago in the Philippines. PHOTO: CALLAO CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT
By 
Robert Lee Hotz

April 10, 2019 1:00 p.m. ET

In a handful of fossilized teeth and bones, scientists say they’ve found evidence of a previously unknown human species that lived in what is now the Philippines about 50,000 years ago. The discovery deepens the mystery of an era when the world was a melting pot of many different human kinds on the move.
Small-jawed with dainty teeth, able to walk upright but with feet still shaped to climb, these island creatures were a mix-and-match patchwork of primitive and advanced features in a unique variation of the human form, the scientists reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.
[Image: B3-DR241_backgr_4U_20190410124444.jpg]100 miles
100 km
CALLAO CAVE
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China
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PHILIPPINES
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“Evolution creates mosaics of traits like this,” said anthropologist Matt Tocheri at Canada’s Lakehead University and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Human Origins Program in Washington, D.C., who wasn’t involved in the project. The report makes “a good case that this is something new that we have not seen before,” he said.
The announcement of a new species brings a region of the Pacific once considered a backwater of evolution into the mainstream of early human development, several anthropologists who study human origins said.
Many specialists in human fossils believe that a half dozen or so species of hominins, as closely related human species are called, may have co-existed around the world between 50,000 and 250,000 years ago. Several intermingled with our direct ancestors, bearing children together and leaving a legacy of hereditary traits that affect our health and well-being today, recent studies of ancient DNA reveal.
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“For the first time, the Philippines is part of the evolutionary debate,” said archaeologist Armand Mijares at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, who led the excavation team that discovered the fossils on the island of Luzon. “We can see now that the islands are a playground of human evolution and natural selection.”
The researchers formally named the newly discovered species Homo luzonensis in honor of the island where they found it. They unearthed the fossils from the floor of an immense limestone cavern called Callao Cave.
[Image: im-65777?width=620&aspect_ratio=1.5]
Scientists and field technicians at work inside Callao Cave on Luzon Island, the Philippines, where the fossils of Homo luzonensis were discovered. PHOTO: CALLAO CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT
The scientists speculate that the creatures may have died elsewhere and then washed into a deep sinkhole that, over eons of erosion, developed into the modern cave system.
Working with wooden probes, the researchers pried loose several foot and hand bones, a partial thigh bone and teeth from a matrix of cemented sediments. It took three years of field work. The specimens belonged to two adults and a juvenile of the species.
“We recognized them almost immediately as hominin,” said paleoanthropologist Florent Detroit of the Museum of Man at France’s National Natural History Museum in Paris, who was the lead author of the research paper that formally proposed the new species.
“The molars were so tiny, so small. The pre-molars had two or three roots. I thought, Uh-oh,” he said. “This was clearly a human-like something.”

Where We Come From
Around 50,000 years ago, five species of genus Homo including the the newly discovered Homo luzonensis are thought to have lived around the same time and potentially interbred.
When different species of the homo genus lived, by millions of years ago
2.521.510.5presentH. habilisH. habilisH. rudolfensisH. rudolfensisH. gautengensisH. gautengensisH. erectusH. erectusH. ergasterH. ergasterH. heidelbergensisH. heidelbergensisH. neanderthalensisH. neanderthalensisH. nalediH. nalediH. sapiens (humans)H. sapiens (humans)H. floresiensisH. floresiensisH. luzonensisH. luzonensisDenisovanDenisovan50,000 years ago
Note: Year bands are estimates.
Source: Smithsonian
Using a technique called uranium-series testing, which measures the rate of radioactive decay in a sample, the scientists determined that the bones dated to a time between 50,000 and 67,000 years ago.
The creature’s teeth, toes and finger bones appear to mix aspects of the other human species in existence elsewhere at the time, including Homo sapiens, Denisovans, Neanderthals, Homo naledi and Homo floresiensis, nicknamed the hobbit species for its small stature and big feet.
So far, the scientists haven’t found evidence that these creatures used tools to hunt or to process their food, which might indicate how highly developed their brains might have been. The scientists also have been unable to isolate DNA from the bones and teeth that could be used to understand how closely they were related to other human species.
“The area is sub-tropical and wet and that makes the preservation of DNA really difficult,” said Dr. Mijares in the Philippines.
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The scientists also don’t know how these creatures reached the island, which was isolated from the mainland of Asia in that primordial era by deep ocean, just as today. Their more primitive ancestors may have been washed ashore on storm-driven debris or perhaps sailed on rafts, as much as 700,000 years ago, they said.
“We don’t know how they got to Luzon,” said Dr. Detroit in Paris. “They crossed the ocean but we don’t know when and we don’t know how, but they did it a long time ago.”
In their new environs, the species most likely evolved out of contact with other hominin species, developing their unique variations on the human form in an evolutionary process that results from long-term isolation on a small island with limited food resources and a lack of predators, the scientists said.
No one knows why this species died out like so many other early hominin groups or why Homo sapiens is the only one that survives today.
“It is a wake-up call. This is just not what you’d expect in the islands of Southeast Asia at a time when our own species is making its incredible journey around the world,” Dr. Tocheri said.
Recent human evolution, he said “just got even messier, more complicated and a whole lot more interesting.”
[Image: im-65778?width=620&aspect_ratio=1.5]
The exterior of the Callao Cave, where the fossils of Homo luzonensis were discovered.PHOTO: CALLAO CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT
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Quote:Pino said the footprint appears to be that of a barefoot man weighing about 70 kilograms (155 pounds) and of the species Hominipes modernus, a relative of Homo sapiens. Holycowsmile



APRIL 28, 2019
Footprint found in Chile is 'oldest' in Americas: scientists

[Image: 5cc55d1f6d93b.jpg]A) Photography of the original sedimentary structure attributed to a human footprint that was excavated at the Pilauco site. A sediment lump is apparently embedded within the trackbed (star). Scale bar 5 cm. B) Three-dimensional model in dorsal view with a virtual 45° tilt toward the south to facilitate the observation of profile lines 1–2, 3–4 and 5–6 drawn on the 3D model surface (123Catch from Autodesk and trial version of Rhino4, McNeel &Associates). C) Profile lines: [1–2] crossing from the “heel”, “medial longitudinal arch” and “hallux”; [3–4] passing by the midline. Notice that the sediment lump is 2.1 cm high from the footprint base; and [5–6] line passing through the “heel”, “lateral longitudinal arch” and “lateral digits”. Credit: PLOS ONE (2019). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213572
Scientists in Chile say they have found a footprint dating from at least 15,600 years ago, making it the earliest such sign of man's presence in the Americas.

The footprint was found at the Pilauco excavation in the city of Osorno (820 kilometers, or 500 miles, south of Santiago), where scientists have been digging since 2007.
Archeologists from the Austral University of Chile said the footprint was first spotted in 2011 next to a house. It took years for paleontologist Karen Moreno and geologist Mario Pino to reliably confirm that the print was human.
"There are other human footprints in the Americas," Pino told the Osorno newspaper El Austral, "but none has been dated as far back."
He said scientists were able to do so by applying radiocarbon dating techniques to organic plant material where the print was found.
Pino said the footprint appears to be that of a barefoot man weighing about 70 kilograms (155 pounds) and of the species Hominipes modernus, a relative of Homo sapiens.
The area in Chile has proven rich in fossils, including evidence of an ancestor of today's elephants and American horses, as well as of more recent human presence.
An earlier footprint found at a site south of Osorno was found to be about 1,000 years more recent.
The newer findings were published in the latest edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One.


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230 million-year-old dinosaur footprint found in north Spain[/size]


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More information: Karen Moreno et al. A late Pleistocene human footprint from the Pilauco archaeological site, northern Patagonia, Chile, PLOS ONE (2019). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213572
Journal information: PLoS ONE
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[size=undefined]https://phys.org/news/2019-04-footprint-...tists.html[/size]
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Quote:Pino said the footprint appears to be that of a barefoot man weighing about 70 kilograms (155 pounds) and of the species Hominipes modernus, a relative of Homo sapiens. Holycowsmile



APRIL 28, 2019
Footprint found in Chile is 'oldest' in Americas: scientists

[Image: 5cc55d1f6d93b.jpg]A) Photography of the original sedimentary structure attributed to a human footprint that was excavated at the Pilauco site. A sediment lump is apparently embedded within the trackbed (star). Scale bar 5 cm. B) Three-dimensional model in dorsal view with a virtual 45° tilt toward the south to facilitate the observation of profile lines 1–2, 3–4 and 5–6 drawn on the 3D model surface (123Catch from Autodesk and trial version of Rhino4, McNeel &Associates). C) Profile lines: [1–2] crossing from the “heel”, “medial longitudinal arch” and “hallux”; [3–4] passing by the midline. Notice that the sediment lump is 2.1 cm high from the footprint base; and [5–6] line passing through the “heel”, “lateral longitudinal arch” and “lateral digits”. Credit: PLOS ONE (2019). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213572
Scientists in Chile say they have found a footprint dating from at least 15,600 years ago, making it the earliest such sign of man's presence in the Americas.

The footprint was found at the Pilauco excavation in the city of Osorno (820 kilometers, or 500 miles, south of Santiago), where scientists have been digging since 2007.
Archeologists from the Austral University of Chile said the footprint was first spotted in 2011 next to a house. It took years for paleontologist Karen Moreno and geologist Mario Pino to reliably confirm that the print was human.
"There are other human footprints in the Americas," Pino told the Osorno newspaper El Austral, "but none has been dated as far back."
He said scientists were able to do so by applying radiocarbon dating techniques to organic plant material where the print was found.
Pino said the footprint appears to be that of a barefoot man weighing about 70 kilograms (155 pounds) and of the species Hominipes modernus, a relative of Homo sapiens.
The area in Chile has proven rich in fossils, including evidence of an ancestor of today's elephants and American horses, as well as of more recent human presence.
An earlier footprint found at a site south of Osorno was found to be about 1,000 years more recent.
The newer findings were published in the latest edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One.


[size=undefined]

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230 million-year-old dinosaur footprint found in north Spain[/size]


[size=undefined]
More information: Karen Moreno et al. A late Pleistocene human footprint from the Pilauco archaeological site, northern Patagonia, Chile, PLOS ONE (2019). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213572
Journal information: PLoS ONE
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Apr 26, 2019, 12:32pm
Alaskan Child's Footprint Is Rare Evidence Of Prehistoric Subarctic Life

[img=64x0]https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/144x144/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fkristinakillgrove%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FKristina-Killgrove_avatar_1534087965-400x400.jpg[/img]
Kristina Killgrove
Senior Contributor

ScienceArchaeologist, Writer, Scientist







[img=551x0]https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fkristinakillgrove%2Ffiles%2F2019%2F04%2FSmith-et-al-Fig5-1200x722.jpg[/img]
Image showing measurements of the Swan Point footprint, next to the footprint, and a historic Athabascan moccasin.
 G. SMITH / UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS

A single footprint found at the site of Swan Point, Alaska, may have been made by a tween wandering around his or her house, and archaeologists say this is rare evidence of day-to-day family activities in the prehistoric subarctic.
Writing this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, archaeologist Gerad Smith of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and his colleagues detail their discovery of a footprint so rare, they initially questioned whether it had been made by human activity.
The researchers found the print at the Swan Point site in central Alaska, which has been under excavation since 1991. In 2005, the excavation team found a large oval housepit, a semi-subterranean portion of a spruce bark house, which would have been topped with a rectangular frame of logs. During the 2018 excavation of the housepit itself, however, the living floor of the structure was identified, and a "small, distinct human footprint-shaped feature was uncovered in direct stratigraphic association," Smith and colleagues write. Both the house and the footprint were dated based on carbon-14 analysis of burned material to 1,840 cal year BP, or roughly the 2nd century AD.



Analysis of the footprint suggests the person who made it was not barefoot but rather was wearing soft-soled footwear, like a moccasin. "The footprint of an individual wearing footwear leaves a less distinct impression," Smith and colleagues note, "but still reveals a great deal of information." Using a forensic approach, the archaeologists attempted to extract as much data from the print as possible.


The team created a plaster mold of the print, and also photographed and 3D scanned it, then analyzed it using forensic techniques such as landmark analysis to obtain measurements of the foot that was in the shoe. These measurements then "provide a means of creating a biological profile of the individual that includes estimates of age, sex, stature, and body weight," Smith and colleagues explain.

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Collage of images of the preservation and removal of the Swan Point footprint.
 G. SMITH / UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS

Given the small length of the footprint (20.28 cm), which is well under the average foot size for contemporary Euroamerican women and represents about a size 5 1/2 shoe, and the short reconstructed height of 4'10", which is also much lower than average adult female height, the archaeologists explored the possibility that the person who made the print was a kid.
"Our derived height falls between the 9-year-old stature marker and the following 12-year-old stature marker," of the comparative Canadian Tahltan and Iñupiaq children, they note. Further, in estimating the tween's body mass, Smith and colleagues approximate that, based on the width of the ball of the foot, the child may have been about 35.5 kg or 78 lbs. "This growth estimate fits the mean expected for a 20th century First Nations 9-year-old," the archaeologists write.
Given the discovery of a kid's footprint near a bark house, which would have been constructed by a "big man" in the village for his family, the archaeologists conclude that "the occurrence of a child and a house feature associated with a wealthy village man suggests the presence of a family who was relatively well off during their occupation of the site."
While Smith and his colleagues do note that reconstructions of body size and shape from footprints are difficult even under the best circumstances, some researchers feel they may have gone a bit too far in the paper. Zach Throckmorton, a biological anthropologist at ARCOM with expertise in the evolution of the human foot, suggests that "any assertions beyond the estimated foot length are dubious and seem like archaeological story-telling. Their specific claims of a kid with healthy feet from a healthy family made me raise my eyebrows. These details are simply not supported by the available data."
But Throckmorton does agree that the publication of the footprint is incredibly valuable for our understanding of ancient Alaska. "I am convinced they have a genuine human footprint," he says, "and agree that the footprint was likely made by someone shod in lighter footwear like a sandal or moccasin. The discussion of the archaeological aspects of the site is detailed and clear, and I am glad to see this evidence added to the North American record."
Smith, however, thinks that pushing the data as far as possible will help archaeologists in this region generate a fuller picture of the Alaskan past and propose new research questions. He tells me that "if our profile is accurate, it seems that the child was well cared for, and we can infer the presence of an entire family group," meaning houses like this that were still seen in the 19th century in this region have a very long history.
"It's been interesting to experience how the public has interacted with the footprint," Smith concludes. "Footprints seem to form a direct human connection to past people via their everyday activities. They're a little more personal than the artifacts people left behind."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakil...7ce683b07a

DNA reveals...

APRIL 29, 2019
Details of the history of inner Eurasia revealed by new study
by Max Planck Society
[Image: detailsofthe.jpg]Children from one of the Tajikistan communities included in the study. Credit: Elena Balanovska
An international team of researchers has combined archaeological, historical and linguistic data with genetic information from over 700 newly analyzed individuals to construct a more detailed picture of the history of inner Eurasia than ever before available. In a study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, they found that the indigenous populations of inner Eurasia are very diverse in their genes, culture and languages, but divide into three groups that stretch across the area in east-west geographic bands.

Inner Eurasia, including areas of modern-day Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, was once the cross-roads connecting Asia and Europe, and a major intersection for the exchange of culture, trade goods and genes in prehistory and historical periods, including the era of the famous Silk Road.
This vast area can also be divided into several distinct ecological regions that stretch in largely east-west bands across Inner Eurasia, consisting of the deserts at the southern edge of the region, the steppe in the central part, taiga forests further north, and tundra towards the Arctic region. The subsistence strategies used by indigenous groups in these regions largely correlate with the ecological zones, for example reindeer herding and hunting in the tundra region and nomadic pastoralism on the steppe.
Despite the long and important history of inner Eurasia, details about past migrations and interactions between groups are not always clear, especially in prehistory. "Inner Eurasia is a perfect place to investigate the relationship between environmental conditions and the pattern of human migration and mixture, as well as changes driven by cultural innovations such as the introduction of dairy pastoralism into the steppe," states Choongwon Jeong of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, co-first and senior author of the paper. In order to clarify our understanding of some of the nuances of the history of the region, an international team of researchers undertook an ambitious project to use modern and ancient DNA from a broad geographic range and time period, in concert with archaeological, linguistic and historical information, to clarify the relationships between the different populations. "A few ethnic groups were studied previously," says Oleg Balanovsky from the Vavilov Institute of General Genetics in Moscow, also co-first author, "but we conducted more than a hundred field trips to study this vast region systematically, and reached communities speaking almost all of the Inner Eurasian languages."

Three distinct east-west groupings
For this study, the researchers analyzed DNA from 763 individuals from across the region as well as reanalyzed the genome-wide data from two ancient individuals from the Botai culture, and compared those results with previously published data from modern and ancient individuals. They found three distinct genetic groupings, which geographically are arranged in east-west bands stretching across the region and correlating generally to ecological zones, where populations within each band share a distinct combination of ancestries in varying proportions.
[Image: 1-detailsofthe.jpg]

Geographic locations of the Eneolithic Botai, groups including newly sampled individuals, and nearby groups with published data. The map is overlayed with ecoregional information, divided into 14 biomes downloaded from ecoregions2017.appspot.com/ (credited to Ecoregions 2017 © Resolve). Credit: Jeong & Balanovsky et. al. 2019. The genetic history of admixture across inner Eurasia. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 10.1038/s41559-019-0878-2
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The northernmost grouping, which they term "forest-tundra," includes Russians, all Uralic language-speakers, which includes Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian, and Yeniseian-language speakers, of which only one remains today and is spoken in central Siberia. The middle grouping, which they term "steppe-forest," includes Turkic- and Mongolic-speaking populations from the Volga and the region around the Altai and Sayan mountains, near to where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan meet. The southernmost grouping, "southern-steppe," includes the rest of Turkic- and Mongolic-speaking populations living further south, such as Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks, as well as Indo-European-speaking Tajiks.
Previously unknown genetic connections revealed
Because the study includes data from a broad time period, it is able to show shifts in ancestry in the past that reveal previously unknown interactions. For example, the researchers found that the southern-steppe populations had a larger genetic component from West and South Asia than the other two groupings. This component is also widespread in the ancient populations of the region since the second half of the first millennium BC, but not found in Central Kazakhstan in earlier periods. This hints at a population movement from the southern-steppe region to the steppe-forest region that was previously unknown.
"Inner Eurasia has functioned as a conduit for human migration and cultural transfer since the first appearance of modern humans in this region. As a result, we observe deep sharing of genes between Western and Eastern Eurasian populations in multiple layers," explains Jeong. "The opportunity to find direct evidence for the hidden old layers of admixture, which is often difficult to appreciate from present-day populations, is very exciting."
"We found not only corridors, but also barriers for migrations," adds Balanovsky. "Some of them separate the historical groups of populations, while others, like the distinct barrier following the Great Caucasus mountain ridge, were obviously shaped by the geographic landscape."
Two ancient individuals resequenced in this study originated from the Botai culture in Kazakhstan where the horse was initially domesticated. Analysis of the Y-chromosome (inherited along the paternal genealogical lines) revealed a genetic lineage which is typical in the Kazakh steppe up to the present day. But analysis of the autosomes, which both parents contribute to their children, show no trace of Botai ancestry left in present-day people, likely due to repeated migrations into the region both from the west and the east since the Bronze Age.
The researchers emphasize that their model of three groupings does not perfectly explain all known populations and that there are examples of both outliers and intermediate groups. "It is important to organize a future study for further sampling of sparsely populated regions between the clines, for example, Central Kazakhstan or East Siberia," says Johannes Krause, also of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and senior author of the paper.[/size]


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The Caucasus: Complex interplay of genes and cultures[/size]


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More information: The genetic history of admixture across inner Eurasia, Nature Ecology & Evolution(2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0878-2 , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-019-0878-2
Journal information: Nature Ecology & Evolution [/url]

Provided by [url=https://phys.org/partners/max-planck-society/]Max Planck Society
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APRIL 30, 2019
Human ancestors were 'grounded,' new analysis shows
by New York University
[Image: humanancesto.jpg]An evolutionary tree depicting the relationships among living apes, Ardi, and modern humans. Each branch on the tree represents a species and their intersections represent their common ancestors. The dots represent hypothetical evolutionary changes associated with the evolution of ground-living adaptations in the common ancestor of African apes and humans as well as the evolution of bipedalism, which is supported by the analysis. This shows that human bipedalism evolved from an ancestral form similar to the living African apes. Credit: Thomas Prang
African apes adapted to living on the ground, a finding that indicates human evolved from an ancestor not limited to tree or other elevated habitats. The analysis adds a new chapter to evolution, shedding additional light on what preceded human bipedalism.

African apes adapted to living on the ground, a finding that indicates human evolved from an ancestor not limited to tree or other elevated habitats. The analysis adds a new chapter to evolution, shedding additional light on what preceded human bipedalism.
"Our unique form of human locomotion evolved from an ancestor that moved in similar ways to the living African apes—chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas," explains Thomas Prang, a doctoral candidate in New York University's Department of Anthropology and the author of the study, which appears in the journal eLife. "In other words, the common ancestor we share with chimpanzees and bonobos was an African ape that probably had adaptations to living on the ground in some form and frequency."
The way that humans walk—striding bipedalism—is unique among all living mammals, an attribute resulting from myriad changes over time.
"The human body has been dramatically modified by evolutionary processes over the last several million years in ways that happened to make us better walkers and runners," notes Prang.
Much of this change is evident in the human foot, which has evolved to be a propulsive organ, with a big toe incapable of ape-like grasping and a spring-like, energy-saving arch that runs from front to back.
These traits raise a long-studied, but not definitively answered, question: From what kind of ancestor did the human foot evolve?
In the eLife work, Prang, a researcher in NYU's Center for the Study of Human Origins, focused on the fossil species Ardipithecus ramidus ('Ardi'), a 4.4 million-years-old human ancestor from Ethiopia—more than a million years older than the well-known 'Lucy' fossil. Ardi's bones were first publicly revealed in 2009 and have been the subject of debate since then.
In his research, Prang ascertained the relative length proportions of multiple bones in the primate foot skeleton to evaluate the relationship between species' movement (locomotion) and their skeletal characteristics (morphology). In addition, drawing upon the Ardi fossils, he used statistical methods to reconstruct or estimate what the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees might have looked like.
Here, he found that the African apes show a clear signal of being adapted to ground-living. The results also reveal that the Ardi foot and the estimated morphology of the human-chimpanzee last common ancestor is most similar to these African ape species.
"Therefore, humans evolved from an ancestor that had adaptations to living on the ground, perhaps not unlike those found in African apes," Prang concludes. "These findings suggest that human bipedalism was derived from a form of locomotion similar to that of living African apes, which contrasts with the original interpretation of these fossils."
The original interpretation of the Ardi foot fossils, published in 2009, suggested that its foot was more monkey-like than chimpanzee- or gorilla-like. The implication of this interpretation is that many of the features shared by living great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) in their foot and elsewhere must have evolved independently in each lineage—in a different time and place.
"Humans are part of the natural world and our locomotor adaptation—bipedalism—cannot be understood outside of its natural evolutionary context," Prang observes. "Large-scale evolutionary changes do not seem to happen spontaneously. Instead, they are rooted in deeper histories revealed by the study of the fossil record.
"The study of the Ardi fossil shows that the evolution of our own ground-living adaptation—bipedalism—was preceded by a quadrupedal ground-living adaptation in the common ancestors that we share with the African apes."


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More information: Thomas Cody Prang. The African ape-like foot of Ardipithecus ramidus and its implications for the origin of bipedalism, eLife (2019). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.44433
Journal information: eLife [/url]

Provided by [url=https://phys.org/partners/new-york-university/]New York University
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[size=undefined]https://phys.org/news/2019-04-human-ance...lysis.html[/size]
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Chinese fossil sheds light on mysterious Neanderthal kin
By MALCOLM RITTER2 hours ago


[/url][Image: 800.jpeg]

1 of 4
This combination of images provided by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig shows two views of a virtual reconstruction of the Xiahe mandible. At right, the simulated parts are in gray. According to a report released on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, the bone is at least 160,000 years old, and recovered proteins led scientists to conclude the jaw came from a Denisovan, a relative of Neanderthals. (Jean-Jacques Hublin, MPI-EVA, Leipzig)


NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly 40 years after it was found by a monk in a Chinese cave, a fossilized chunk of jawbone has been revealed as coming from a mysterious relative of the Neanderthals.
Until now, the only known remains of these Denisovans were a few scraps of bone and teeth recovered in a Siberian cave. DNA from those Siberian fossils showed kinship with Neanderthals. But the remains disclosed little else.
The new discovery was made roughly 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometers) to the southeast in Gansu province of China. The right half of a jawbone with teeth is at least 160,000 years old, scientists [url=https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1139-x]reported Wednesday in the journal Nature. No DNA could be found, but scientists recovered protein fragments that they compared to the Siberian DNA. That showed the fossil came from a Denisovan.

The find addresses several mysteries. One was why the Siberian DNA indicated Denisovans were adapted to living at high altitudes when the Siberian cave is relatively close to sea level. The Chinese cave, by contrast, is on the high-altitude Tibetan Plateau, about 10,800 feet (3,280 meters) high.
“Now we have an explanation,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, one of the paper’s authors.
In fact, “it’s a big surprise” that any human relative could live in the cold climate and thin air of the plateau at that time, more than 100,000 years before our own species showed up there, he told reporters.
Previous research had indicated that Denisovans must have lived somewhere other than Siberia, because traces of their DNA can be found in several present-day populations of Asia and Australia whose ancestors probably didn’t pass through that region. The new finding expands their known range, although Hublin said it’s still not clear where Denisovans first appeared. They are named for Siberia’s Denisova cave, where the remains were found.
The new work was a long time in coming. The monk who found the fossil in 1980 gave it to a Buddhist leader, who passed it along to Lanzhou University in China. Study of it began in 2010.
The discovery also provides new anatomical details that can be compared to other fossils from China, some of which are “good candidates for being Chinese Denisovans,” Hublin said.
Experts unconnected to the research agreed the fossil could help identify other remains as Denisovan.

“We always assumed ... that Denisovans were distributed all across Asia,” said Bence Viola of the University of Toronto.
The Nature paper points out similarities to a fossil jaw reported in 2015 that had been dredged by a fishing net off the coast of Taiwan. So maybe the Denisovan range can be extended that far south, he said.
Such linking of fossils might eventually reveal Denisovan body shape and size, he said. From the scant known remains “I assume they were large guys, but it’s kind of hard to prove,” Viola said.
In addition to the anatomy, the study’s approach of using protein from the bone or teeth could also be used on fossils to look for evidence of Denisovan identity, said Eric Delson of Lehman College in New York. Even if a fossil is found not to be Denisovan, the analysis could reveal details of how it fits on the evolutionary tree, he said.
“The method potentially tells us a whole new way of looking at fossils,” he said.
Katerina Harvati of the University of Tuebingen in Germany said the ability of Denisovans to adapt to the inhospitable climate of the Tibetan Plateau is remarkable. It adds to growing evidence that our ancient relatives were more capable than scientists had thought, she said.


https://apnews.com/f3ee57c9a53e41ef846442de09397c29
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MAY 2, 2019 REPORT
Genetic study of yams adds more evidence of the Niger River Basin serving as a cradle of agriculture
by Bob Yirka , Phys.org
[Image: 5ccad45900390.jpg]Field of cultivated yam in the south-east of Cameroon. Credit: IRD, Roland Akakpo
An international team of researchers has found more evidence to support the theory that the Niger River Basin was an early cradle of agriculture. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes their genetic analysis of yams and what they found.

The Fertile Crescent in the Middle East gave rise to the domestication of wheat, barley, lentil, oat, chickpea and several other agricultural crops. But other areas around the world have served as a cradle of agriculture, as well—such as parts of China, where the domestication of rice and other crops occurred. In recent years, evidence has mounted for a cradle of agriculture in Africa, in the Niger River Basin. Prior studies have found some evidence suggesting that approximately 6000 years ago, the basinwas peppered with lakes, making the entire region moister and more conducive to producing a wide variety of plants that humans in the area could use for food. When the lakes dried up, it appears the people adapted by domesticating their wild food sources. Prior studies have also shown that African rice got its start in West Africa, and some evidence indicates millet domestication there, as well. In this new effort, the researchers took a closer look at yams, a highly important crop in Africa.
The researchers began their work by sequencing the genomes of 167 wild and domesticated yams from multiple sites in Africa. They report that the DNA of savanna yams was similar to modern domesticated yams, and that forest yams fell into two groups. One of those two groups showed the most similarity to modern yams. The second type of forest yam was originally found wild in the Niger River Basin. The researchers found that over time, growers of the tuber had made selective choices to favor those with more robust roots that were better able to reach water—they also selected for more regularly shaped yams and for those with more starch. The same research team carried out a similar study with pearl millet last year, and found that modern domesticated versions also originated in the Niger River Basin.


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Improving food security and conserving yam diversity[/size]


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More information: Nora Scarcelli et al. Yam genomics supports West Africa as a major cradle of crop domestication, Science Advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw1947
Journal information: Science Advances
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ges like Estonian and Finnish also have DNA from ancient Siberians. Now, with the help of ancient DNA samples, researchers reporting in Current Biology on May 9 suggest that these languages may have arrived from Siberia by the beginning of the Iron Age, about 2,500 years ago, rather than evolving in Northern Europe.

The findings highlight the way in which a combination of genetic, archaeological, and linguistic data can converge to tell the same story about what happened in particular areas in the distant past.
"Since the transition from Bronze to Iron Age coincides with the diversification and arrival timeof Finnic languages in the Eastern Baltic proposed by linguists, it is plausible that the people who brought Siberian ancestry to the region also brought Uralic languages with them," says Lehti Saag of University of Tartu, Estonia.
Although researchers knew that the Uralic-speaking people share common Siberian ancestry, its arrival time in the Eastern Baltic had remained uncertain. To characterize the genetic ancestry of people from the as-yet-unstudied cultural layers, Saag along with Kristiina Tambets and colleagues extracted DNA from the tooth roots of 56 individuals, 33 of which yielded enough DNA to include in the analysis.
"Studying ancient DNA makes it possible to pinpoint the moment in time when the genetic components that we see in modern populations reached the area since, instead of predicting past events based on modern genomes, we are analyzing the DNA of individuals who actually lived in a particular time in the past," Saag explains.
Their data suggest that the Siberian ancestry reached the coasts of the Baltic Sea no later than the mid-first millennium BC—around the time of the diversification of west Uralic/Finnic languages. It also indicates an influx of people from regions with strong Western hunter-gatherer characteristics in the Bronze Age, including many traits we now associate with modern Northern Europeans, like pale skins, blue eyes, and lactose tolerance.
"The Bronze Age individuals from the Eastern Baltic show an increase in hunter-gatherer ancestry compared to Late Neolithic people and also in the frequency of light eyes, hair, and skin and lactose tolerance," Tambets says, noting that those characteristics continue amongst present-day Northern Europeans.
The researchers are now expanding their study to better understand the Iron Age migration processes in Europe. They say they will also "move forward in time and focus on the genetic structure of the medieval time period."


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Northern European population history revealed by ancient human genomes


More information: Current Biology, Saag et al.: "The Arrival of Siberian Ancestry Connecting the Eastern Baltic to Uralic Speakers further East" https://www.cell.com/current-biology/ful...19)30424-5DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.04.026
Journal information: Current Biology [/url]

Provided by [url=https://phys.org/partners/cell-press/]Cell Press
 

https://phys.org/news/2019-05-ancient-dn...uages.html
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...
This might fit here.
HRM found it a few days ago.

https://www.theepochtimes.com/researcher...62KgWReErc

Researchers Test 1,000-Year-Old Viking General’s DNA, Prove Themselves Wrong


Quote:Scientists assumed a few things about a Viking skeleton they excavated in the 1800s.

The skeleton was buried with two horses, an ax, a sword, a spear, a battle knife, and shields, 
so they assumed the skeleton belonged to a warrior.

A board game lay in the skeleton’s lap, so they assumed the man was a powerful military leader.

Except it wasn’t a man.

The skeleton actually belongs to a woman, 
according to results of a DNA test published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.



[Image: sword-1-600x485.jpg]
Illustration of the Viking grave by Neil Price. (Public Domain)


Quote:It’s actually a woman, somewhere over the age of 30 and fairly tall, too, 
measuring around 5 feet 6 inches tall,” 
Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, an archaeologist at Uppsala University told The Local.

The woman warrior was buried in the mid-10th century in the Viking town of Birka. 
The gaming set found on her lap was complete with a full set of pieces.

“The gaming set indicates that she was an officer,” 
Hedenstierna-Jonson said. 
“Someone who worked with tactics and strategy and could lead troops in battle.”

Scientists have long assumed that the skeleton belonged to man because it was buried with weapons. 
Several years ago, Anna Kjellström, a bone and skeleton scientist, 
noted that the cheekbones were narrow and the pelvic bones were feminine. 
Scientists tested the DNA Whip
and the results proved a century-old assumption wrong.

“Using ancient DNA for sex identification is useful when working with children for example, 
but can also help to resolve controversial cases such as this one,” 
said Maja Krzewinska, an archaeologist at the Stockholm University.

The discovery of a female warrior is the first of its kind, according to Neil Price, 
a professor of archaeology at Uppsala University.

“Written sources mention female warriors occasionally,” Price told phys.org. 
“But this is the first time that we’ve really found convincing archaeological evidence for their existence.”


---------------------------------------------------------------

1,100-Year-Old Viking Sword Found
A Viking sword made over a millennium ago was found on a mountain in excellent condition.

The sword was found by Einar Ambakk, a reindeer hunter on a remote mountain in Norway, Fox News reported. The finder notified the Glacier Archaeology Program of the local Oppland County Council.

“It is a common type of Viking sword – 
what makes it special is the context and the preservation:



It was found at 1640 m [5381 feet] above sea level,” 
said Lars Pilo, 
from the Oppland County Council, to Fox News by email. 
“To my knowledge, a Viking sword has never been found at such a high altitude before.”

Pilo said the sword laid in that spot for 1,100 years. 
He indicated the sword’s remarkable preservation could be due to the high altitude.

“That a sword should survive more than a thousand years in the open is hard for some people to believe,” 
said Pilo.
The sword’s great condition was helped along by the dry mountain conditions. 
The sword was found in small, loose stones, 
rather than buried in stone, 
also helping to keep it from deteriorating.

The council is still speculating on how the sword got to the mountain. 
“There were no other associated finds nearby. 
There are no indication[s] of a burial or that it is some kind of sacrifice. 
It also appears unlikely that the sword was simply lost here, i.e. 
left behind for some reason and not recovered later. 
What kind of Viking would have left his most precious object behind?” 
the council reported.

Hmm2

Perhaps he was cremated there, and his sword then laid upon his ashes.

...
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Humans and Neanderthals Evolved from a Mystery Common Ancestor, Huge Analysis Suggests

By Laura Geggel, Associate Editor May 17, 2019 07:21am ET

[Image: aHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXZlc2NpZW5jZS5jb20vaW1h...VTRS5qcGc=]
Here, a cast from a reconstructed Neanderthal skull. Researchers just examined tooth shape among Neanderthals, humans and our close relatives to figure out when the groups diverged. Credit: Getty Images

Modern humans and Neanderthals may have diverged at least 800,000 years ago, according to an analysis of nearly 1,000 teeth from humans and our close relatives.
This new estimate is much older than previous estimates based on ancient DNA analyses, which put the split between humans and Neanderthals as happening between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago.
However, while outside researchers called the new dental analysis impressive, they note that it's based on one big assumption: that tooth shape evolves in a steady fashion, especially in Neanderthals. If tooth shape doesn't evolve at a steady rate, then "the construction of this paper collapses," said Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, director of research specializing in human evolution at France's National Center for Scientific Research in Toulouse, who was not involved in the study. [Photos: See the Ancient Faces of a Man-Bun Wearing Bloke and a Neanderthal Woman]
That said, it is quite possible that teeth (and Neanderthal teeth in particular) do evolve at a predictable rate, meaning the new study's calculation might be on target. "At the moment, there is the idea of a steady evolutionary rate change in the shape of cheek-teeth," Ramirez Rozzi said.
Tons of teeth
The researchers examined 931 teeth belonging to a minimum of 122 individuals from eight groups, including humans and our close relatives. Of those, 164 of the teeth were from the early Neanderthals from the Sima de los Huesos ("Pit of the Bones") site in Spain, a sample that includes almost 30 individuals that lived about 430,000 years ago, during the middle Pleistocene epoch.
[Image: MTU1ODA0NTcyOA==][Image: aHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXZlc2NpZW5jZS5jb20vaW1h...U4MDQ1NzI4]

In all, researcher Aida Gómez-Robles examined 931 teeth belonging to a minimum of 122 individuals.
Credit: Aida Gómez-Robles
By comparing the differences in tooth shape between samples, study researcher Aida Gómez-Robles, a paleoanthropologist at University College London, was able to calculate the evolutionary rates for dental shape change and then estimate the divergence time from the last common ancestor between humans and Neanderthals.
The result — that Neanderthals and modern humans probably diverged more than 800,000 years ago — shows that the last common ancestor of these two groups is probably not Homo heidelbergensis, as some scientists think.
"H. heidelbergensis cannot occupy that evolutionary position because it postdates the divergence between Neanderthals and modern humans," Gómez-Robles told Live Science in an email. "That means that we need to look at older species when looking for this common ancestral species."
The finding also "has profound implications for the way we interpret the fossil record and the evolutionary relationships between species," Gómez-Robles said.
Outside takes
Pushing back the divergence between Neanderthals and modern humans "is opening a new door" because it suggests that the two groups were distinct for much longer than previously thought, Ramirez Rozzi said.
However, this raises a question, he said. Humans and Neanderthals interbred around 60,000 years ago, when modern humans left Africa. (This interbreeding explains why the genomes of some modern humans contain nearly 3% Neanderthal DNA.) But if humans and Neanderthals broke apart at least 800,000 years ago, it's surprising that they were still able to interbreed just 60,000 years ago, Ramirez Rozzi said.
"In other words, almost 1 million years of evolution was not enough to establish barriers (genetic, endocrinological, behavioral, etc.) to separate definitively these two species?" he asked.
The argument is laid out well by Gómez-Robles, who is "a well-known specialist of the Neanderthal lineage dental morphology," said Bruno Maureille, director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), in Paris, who was not involved in the study.
But, it appears that the dental remains of Neanderthals from different pockets of Europe each have "their own particularities," Maureille told Live Science. "Can we simply try to draw such global scenarios? [I'm] not so sure."
The study was published online May 16 in the journal Science Advances

https://www.livescience.com/65499-neande...estor.html
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MAY 27, 2019
Scientists uncover a trove of genes that could hold key to how humans evolved
by University of Toronto
[Image: 3-scientistsun.jpg]Image depicts motif divergence between human transcription factors and their counterparts in other species. The blue section in the pie charts represents a proportion of transcription factors, across different classes, which are dissimilar in human. Credit: Sam Lambert
Researchers at the Donnelly Centre in Toronto have found that dozens of genes, previously thought to have similar roles across different organisms, are in fact unique to humans and could help explain how our species came to exist.

These genes code for a class of proteins known as transcription factors, or TFs, which control gene activity. TFs recognize specific snippets of the DNA code called motifs, and use them as landing sites to bind the DNA and turn genes on or off.
Previous research had suggested that TFs which look similar across different organisms also bind similar motifs, even in species as diverse as fruit flies and humans. But a new study from Professor Timothy Hughes' lab, at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, shows that this is not always the case.
Writing in the journal Nature Genetics, the researchers describe a new computational method which allowed them to more accurately predict motif sequences each TF binds in many different species. The findings reveal that some sub-classes of TFs are much more functionally diverse than previously thought.
"Even between closely related species there's a non-negligible portion of TFs that are likely to bind new sequences," says Sam Lambert, former graduate student in Hughes' lab who did most of the work on the paper and has since moved to the University of Cambridge for a postdoctoral stint.
"This means they are likely to have novel functions by regulating different genes, which may be important for species differences," he says.
Even between chimps and humans, whose genomes are 99 per cent identical, there are dozens of TFs which recognize diverse motifs between the two species in a way that would affect expression of hundreds of different genes.
"We think these molecular differences could be driving some of the differences between chimps and humans," says Lambert, who won the Jennifer Dorrington Graduate Research Award for outstanding doctoral research at U of T's Faculty of Medicine.
To reanalyze motif sequences, Lambert developed new software which looks for structural similarities between the TFs' DNA binding regions that relate to their ability to bind the same or different DNA motifs. If two TFs, from different species, have a similar composition of amino-acids, building blocks of proteins, they probably bind similar motifs. But unlike older methods, which compare these regions as a whole, Lambert's automatically assigns greater value to those amino-acids— a fraction of the entire region— which directly contact the DNA. In this case, two TFs may look similar overall, but if they differ in the position of these key amino-acids, they are more likely to bind different motifs. When Lambert compared all TFs across different species and matched to all available motif sequence data, he found that many human TFs recognize different sequences—and therefore regulate different genes— than versions of the same proteins in other animals.

The finding contradicts earlier research, which stated that almost all of human and fruit fly TFs bind the same motif sequences, and is a call for caution to scientists hoping to draw insights about human TFs by only studying their counterparts in simpler organisms.
"There is this idea that has persevered, which is that the TFs bind almost identical motifs between humans and fruit flies," says Hughes, who is also a professor in U of T's Department of Molecular Genetics and Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. "And while there are many examples where these proteins are functionally conserved, this is by no means to the extent that has been accepted."
As for TFs that have unique human roles, these belong to the rapidly evolving class of so-called C2H2 zinc finger TFs, named for zinc ion-containing finger-like protrusions, with which they bind the DNA.
Their role remains an open question but it is known that organisms with more diverse TFs also have more cell types, which can come together in novel ways to build more complicated bodies.
Hughes is excited about a tantalizing possibility that some of these zinc finger TFs could be responsible for the unique features of human physiology and anatomy—our immune system and the brain, which are the most complex among animals. Another concerns sexual dimorphism: countless visible, and often less obvious, differences between sexes that guide mate selection—decisions that have an immediate impact on reproductive success, and can also have profound impact on physiology in the long term. The peacock's tail or facial hair in men are classic examples of such features.
"Almost nobody in human genetics studies the molecular basis of sexual dimorphism, yet these are features that all human beings see in each other and that we are all fascinated with," says Hughes. "I'm tempted to spend the last half of my career working on this, if I can figure out how to do it!"


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A surprizing finding shines new light on the largest group of human proteins[/size]


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More information: Similarity regression predicts evolution of transcription factor sequence specificity, Nature Genetics (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41588-019-0411-1 , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-019-0411-1
Journal information: Nature Genetics [/url]

Provided by [url=https://phys.org/partners/university-of-toronto/]University of Toronto
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[size=undefined]https://phys.org/news/2019-05-scientists...s-key.html[/size]
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JUNE 3, 2019
Oldest flaked stone tools point to the repeated invention of stone tools
by Arizona State University
[Image: oldestflaked.jpg]A large green artifact found in situ at the Bokol Dora site. Right: Image of the same artifact and a three dimensional model of the same artifact. Credit: David R. Braun
A new archaeological site discovered by an international and local team of scientists working in Ethiopia shows that the origins of stone tool production are older than 2.58 million years ago. Previously, the oldest evidence for systematic stone tool production and use was 2.58 to 2.55 million years ago.

Analysis by the researchers of early stone age sites, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that stone tools may have been invented many times in many ways before becoming an essential part of the human lineage.
The excavation site, known as Bokol Dora 1 or BD 1, is close to the 2013 discovery of the oldest fossil attributed to our genus Homo discovered at Ledi-Geraru in the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia. The fossil, a jaw bone, dates to about 2.78 million years ago, some 200,000 years before the then oldest flaked stone tools. The Ledi-Geraru team has been working for the last five years to find out if there is a connection between the origins of our genus and the origins of systematic stone tool manufacture.
A significant step forward in this search was uncovered when Arizona State University geologist Christopher Campisano saw sharp-edged stone tools sticking out of the sediments on a steep, eroded slope.
"At first we found several artifacts lying on the surface, but we didn't know what sediments they were coming from," says Campisano. "But when I peered over the edge of a small cliff, I saw rocks sticking out from the mudstone face. I scaled up from the bottom using my rock hammer and found two nice stone tools starting to weather out."
It took several years to excavate through meters of sediments by hand before exposing an archaeological layer of animal bones and hundreds of small pieces of chipped stone representing the earliest evidence of our direct ancestors making and using stone knives. The site records a wealth of information about how and when humans began to use stone tools.
Preservation of the artifacts comes from originally being buried close to a water source.
[Image: 1-oldestflaked.jpg]

Blade Engda of the University of Poitiers lifts an artifact from 2.6 million year old sediment exposing an imprint of the artifact on the ancient surface below. Credit: David R. Braun
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"Looking at the sediments under a microscope, we could see that the site was exposed only for a very short time. These tools were dropped by early humans at the edge of a water source and then quickly buried. The site then stayed that way for millions of years," noted geoarchaeologist Vera Aldeias of the Interdisciplinary Center for Archaeology and Behavioral Evolution at the University of Algarve, Portugal.

Kaye Reed, who studies the site's ecology, is director of the Ledi-Geraru Research Project and a research associate with Arizona State University's Institute of Human Origins along with Campisano, notes that the animals found with these tools were similar to those found only a few kilometers away with the earliest Homo fossils.
"The early humans that made these stone tools lived in a totally different habitat than 'Lucy' did," says Reed. "Lucy" is the nickname for an older species of hominin known as Australopithecus afarensis, which was discovered at the site of Hadar, Ethiopia, about 45 kilometers southwest of the new BD 1 site. "The habitat changed from one of shrubland with occasional trees and riverine forests to open grasslands with few trees. Even the fossil giraffes were eating grass!"
In addition to dating a volcanic ash several meters below the site, project geologists analyzed the magnetic signature of the site's sediments. Over the Earth's history, its magnetic polarity has reversed at intervals that can be identified. Other earlier archaeological sites near the age of BD 1 are in "reversed" polarity sediments. The BD 1 site is in "normal" polarity sediments. The reversal from "normal" to "reversed" happened at about 2.58 million years ago, geologists knew that BD 1 was older than all the previously known sites.
The recent discovery of older hammering or "percussive" stone tools in Kenya dated to 3.3 million years ago, described as "Lomekwian," and butchered bones in Ethiopia shows the deep history of our ancestors making and using tools. However, recent discoveries of tools made by chimpanzees and monkeys have challenged "technological ape" ideas of human origins.
Archaeologists working at the BD 1 site wondered how their new stone tool discovery fit into this increasingly complex picture. What they found was that not only were these new tools the oldest artifacts yet ascribed to the "Oldowan," a technology originally named after finds from Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, but also were distinct from tools made by chimpanzees, monkeys or even earlier human ancestors.
"We expected to see some indication of an evolution from the Lomekwian to these earliest Oldowan tools. Yet when we looked closely at the patterns, there was very little connection to what is known from older archaeological sites or to the tools modern primates are making," said Will Archer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the University of Cape Town.
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Archaeologists from the Max Planck Institute, and the Ethiopian Authority for Research and the Conservation of Cultural Heritage as well as geologists from University of Algarve study the sediments at the Bokol Dora site. Stones were placed on the contact surface during the excavation to preserve the fragile stratigraphic contacts. Credit: Erin DiMaggio
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The major differences appear to be the ability for our ancestors to systematically chip off smaller sharp-edged tools from larger nodules of stone. Chimpanzees and monkeys generally use tools for percussive activities, to hammer and bash food items like nuts and shellfish, which seems to have been the case with the 3.3 million year old Lomekwian tools as well.
Something changed by 2.6 million years ago, and our ancestors became more accurate and skilled at striking the edge of stones to make tools. The BD 1 artifacts captures this shift.
It appears that this shift in tool making occurred around the same time that our ancestor's teeth began to change. This can be seen in the Homo jaw from Ledi-Geraru. As our ancestors began to process food prior to eating using using stone tools, we start to see a reduction in the size of their teeth. Our technology and biology were intimately intertwined even as early as 2.6 million years ago.
The lack of clear connections with earlier stone tool technology suggests that tool use was invented multiple times in the past.
David Braun, an archaeologist with George Washington University and the lead author on the paper, noted, "Given that primate species throughout the world routinely use stone hammers to forage for new resources, it seems very possible that throughout Africa many different human ancestors found new ways of using stone artifacts to extract resources from their environment. If our hypothesis is correct then we would expect to find some type of continuity in artifact form after 2.6 million years ago, but not prior to this time period. We need to find more sites."
By 2.6 million years ago, there appears to be a long-term investment in tool use as part of the human condition.
Continued field investigations at the Ledi-Geraru project area are already producing more insights into the patterns of behavior in our earliest ancestors. New sites have already been found, and the Ledi-Geraru team will begin excavating them this year.
The research, "Earliest known Oldowan artifacts at >2.58 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, highlight early technological diversity," is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.[/size]


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Stone tools date early humans in North Africa to 2.4 million years ago[/size]


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More information: David R. Braun el al., "Earliest known Oldowan artifacts at >2.58 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, highlight early technological diversity," PNAS (2019). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1820177116
Journal information: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [/url]

Provided by [url=https://phys.org/partners/arizona-state-university/]Arizona State University
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[size=undefined]https://phys.org/news/2019-06-oldest-fla...tools.html[/size]
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