[Paper] Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia

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A new paper in Science examining the genomes of modern pygmies in the island of Flores found similarities with Neanderthal and Denisovan  sequences, but nothing else unexpected, which would suggest that the modern pygmies have no genetic link with the island’s most famous pygmy, Homo floresiensis.

Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia
Tucci et al.
Science, doi: 10.1126/science.aar8486

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.

Source: Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia | Science, 03 August 2018

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New evidence about the ancient humans who occupied Asia is cascading in

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via Aeon.co, 29 MArch 2018:

Modern humans arose only once, in Africa, about 200,000 years ago. They then spread across Eurasia some time after 60,000 years ago, replacing whatever indigenous populations they met with no interbreeding. This is the ‘Out of Africa’ model, as it’s commonly known. In the 1990s, the hypothesis found widespread acceptance by palaeoanthropologists, especially when the first analyses of Neanderthal DNA seemed to indicate that Neanderthals and modern humans did not interbreed. But this popular idea is in need of revision, particularly given the number of important findings across Asia over the past few decades.

Source: In to Asia | Aeon

World’s scientists turn to Asia and Australia to rewrite human history

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via The Conversation, 08 December 2017

Researchers in human evolution used to focus on Africa and Eurasia – but not anymore. Discoveries in Asia and Australia have changed the picture, revealing early, complex cultures outside of Africa.

Source: World’s scientists turn to Asia and Australia to rewrite human history

East Asia in the annals of human evolution

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Darren Curnoe argues that recent archaeological finds from East Asia and Southeast Asia hint at fundamental changes in our understanding of human evolution.

East Asia makes a comeback in the human evolution stakes
The Conversation, 22 January 2016

Archaeological discoveries in East Asia over the last decade or so have dramatically rewritten our understanding of human evolution.

But the implications don’t sit easily with many scholars internationally who continue to see Europe and Africa as the heartland of human origins.

For more than 150 years our understanding of human evolution has been largely shaped by the discoveries made in Europe and parts of Africa, like the caves near Johannesburg and the Great Rift Valley on the east of the continent.

Full story here.

Taiwan’s oldest human is younger than thought

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Taiwanese prehistory may need a major rewrite, after fossils once thought to be 20,000 years old have been re-dated to be only 3,000 years old.

Taiwan’s 1st human may have arrived only 3,000 years ago
The China Post, 25 December 2015

Lab tests of fossils rewrite Taiwan prehistory [Link no longer active]
Taiwan Today, 25 December 2015

In classrooms across the country, children are taught that the first humans in Taiwan arrived at least 20,000 years ago. Lab results from the U.S. and Australia indicate that it could be as few as 3,000.

A Japanese study on the fossils’ manganese content had indicated that the bones were between 20,000 and 30,000 years old, but the reliability of the dating method has more recently been called into question.

To confirm the age of the fossils, the National Taiwan Museum sent a sample to Beta Analytic in Florida, the world’s largest radiocarbon dating laboratory.

Tests returned in September indicated that the bones were 3,000 years old, according to the museum.

Full stories here and here [Link no longer active].

Largest-ever rat fossils discovered in East Timor

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Dr Julien Louys holding up the jawbone fossil of a giant rat found in East Timor, with a modern rat for comparison. Source: ANU 20151106

Very pleased to see my former colleagues at the ANU featured in this news – the discovery of the largest rat fossils ever, from East Timor.

Dr Julien Louys holding up the jawbone fossil of a giant rat found in East Timor, with a modern rat for comparison. Source: ANU 20151106

Dr Julien Louys holding up the jawbone fossil of a giant rat found in East Timor, with a modern rat for comparison. Source: ANU 20151106

The largest to have existed – giant rat fossils
ANU, 06 November 2015

Dog-Size Rats Once Lived Alongside Humans
LiveScience, 06 November 2015

Archaeologists with The Australian National University (ANU) have discovered fossils of seven giant rat species on East Timor, with the largest up to 10 times the size of modern rats.

Dr Julien Louys of the ANU School of Culture, History and Language, who is helping lead the project said these are the largest known rats to have ever existed.

“They are what you would call mega-fauna. The biggest one is about five kilos, the size of a small dog,” Dr Louys said.

“Just to put that in perspective, a large modern rat would be about half a kilo.”

The work is part of the From Sunda to Sahul project which is looking at the earliest human movement through Southeast Asia. Researchers are now trying to work out exactly what caused the rats to die out.

Full story here and here.

Fossil finds reveal range of pleistocene wildlife

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Over 500 fossils have been found at the Ma Tuyen Cave in Lao Cai province of Vietnam, representing at least 12 animal species including bears, elephants, horses and rhinos.

10,000 year old elephant teeth discovered in Lao Cai
Saigon Giai Phong, 12 June 2010

Twelve animal species found in Lao Cai cave [Link no longer available]
Viet Nam News, 17 June 2010
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