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A new human ancestor has been named

A team of researchers has given a new name to an ancient human ancestor. They believe it will help solve “the tangled up in the middle,” a research conundrum that has sparked conflict in the study of human evolution. Their work is published in News and opinions on issues of evolutionary anthropology.

The importance of names


Nomenclature – the attribution of names or terms – is extremely important in science for many reasons, but in large part because scientific research is a global endeavor. Imagine two researchers who conduct experiments using the same organism, but in two different parts of the world. If one scientist refers to the organism as “X” and the other decides to name it “Y”, their publications may be about the same organism, but they will not necessarily know it. Nomenclature is important for succinct communication, especially in the study of ancient species and human evolution, paleoanthropologist Professor Mirjana Roksandic Recount Technological networks.

Roksandic and his colleagues at the University of Winnipeg, along with a team of international researchers, named a new species that is an ancestor of modern humans (Homo sapiens), called Homo bodoensis. “It is generally considered that homo erectus is the first human ancestor to have worldwide distribution after leaving Africa in the early Pleistocene. Towards the end of the Lower Pleistocene, Homo develop a bigger brain. This intelligent hominin gives rise to three different regional groups which we recognize as the Neanderthals in Europe, their contemporaries in Asia, and the Middle Pleistocene ancestor of Homo sapiens in Africa, ”said Roksandic.

Human brain development


The Middle Pleistocene, now called the Chibanian Age, is a particularly interesting time in human evolution, as that is when our most unique trait – a large brain – developed. However, the researchers faced several challenges when trying to study it, explained Roksandic: “We have many more fossils from later periods, and there are larger gaps in the geographic coverage of the Chibanian fossils.” She added, “Talking about human evolution during this period has become impossible due to the lack of proper terminology that recognizes human geographic variation. “

Previously, fossils obtained across Africa and Eurasia that date back to the Chibanian Age have been attributed to either Homo heidelbergensis or Homo rhodesiensis. However, advances in ancient DNA sequencing suggest that some of these ancestors were early Neanderthals and therefore were misnamed.

Enter: Homo bodoensis


After reassessing the fossils, Roksandic and his colleagues decided to name the ancestor of Homo sapiens who lived in Africa during the Chibanian era Homo bodoensis. “Our team gave a new name to the long-known species. We conceptualized it as a Middle African Pleistocene. [Chibanian] species, ancestral to modern man. It shows a set of traits similar to earlier forms, and a set of traits shared with other Middle Pleistocene humans [Chibanian] and a unique shape of brow ridges, ”explained Roksandic. The name comes from a skull found in Bodo D’ar, Ethiopia. In addition to these African fossils, the name will also be attributed to the Chibanian humans who occupied parts of southeastern Europe, but many Southeastern European specimens will now be reclassified as Neanderthals.

“We believe that this name fills a need in our ability to communicate about the movements and interactions of these different hominid groups. If taken by our colleagues, it will have an impact on how we talk about this. important period, “concluded Roksandic.

Mirjana Roksandic was speaking to Molly Campbell, science writer for Technology Networks.

Reference: Roksandic M, Radović P, Wu XJ, Bae, CJ. Solving the “confusion in the middle”: the case for Homo bodoensis. Evol Anthoropol. 2021. doi: 10.1002 / EVAN.21929.


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