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Science

New Ancient Human Identified 148

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-family dept.
krou writes "Working on a finger-bone that was discovered in the Denisova Cave of Siberia's Altai mountains in 2008, Johannes Krause from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and colleagues managed to extract mitochondrial DNA. They compared it to the genetic code of modern humans and other known Neanderthals and discovered a new type of hominin that lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. Professor Chris Stringer, human origins researcher at London's Natural History Museum, said, 'This new DNA work provides an entirely new way of looking at the still poorly-understood evolution of humans in central and eastern Asia.' The last common ancestor of the hominid (dubbed 'X-Woman'), humans and Neanderthals seems to have been about one million years ago."
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New Ancient Human Identified

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  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @01:28AM (#31607442) Homepage
    You are correct that there's evidence for there being correlation between mental abilities and race. But that doesn't mean it is at all genetic. Much of it is almost certainly cultural and environmental. For example, if you get less nutrients growing up you likely aren't going to be as smart as someone else who does get enough nutrients. That's because early brain growth is determined in part by how much resources the brain has available. Similarly, certain cultures have games and habits with young children that may encourage certain forms of mental development or practicing certain skills. Moreover, some types of intelligent tests are very culturally based (there are some fascinating cross cultural studies about how people naturally organize things into groups. While in most Western societies we consider organization into functional categories to be ideal and consider people not as bright if they have trouble, in many other societies and even some Western societies, given a set of objects they will try categorize by which groups of objects can be used together. The classic example of this is giving a bunch of tools and a bunch of possible things that the tools can modify. The "correct" Western response is to group into tools and non-tools. But in some cultures they instead group into which are connected to relevant processes). So yes, such correlation does exist, but there's no strong evidence that such correlation actually means much at all.
  • by moteyalpha (1228680) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @01:37AM (#31607468) Homepage Journal
    That is very strange talk from a Pak Protector.
    I saw a very interesting Ted Talk by Elaine Morgan and it seems to me that a single non mutation change in the apes could have fostered any number of branches in the early evolution. I agree that there is no great genetic difference across the planet.
    It seems to me that a single change in the ability to control breathing consciously could have been the difference that makes us the human branch. There is no strong linear delimiter that I have seen which would cause speciation from the apes.
    It seems that an ape that could escape from others by traveling through deep water to safety or isolation would allow a population to become isolated. It would allow a new dominance similar to the ability to escape predators in trees.
    I believe that it might be proved or disproved by the genetic SNP distance of the change which defines the ability to control respiration. If it were the oldest conserved gene, then it would seem that it could be possible.
    It also leads to the ability to communicate. Apes have intelligence and hands, but lack effective communication due to the inability to control vocalization ( like birds ).
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @01:57AM (#31607556) Homepage Journal

    While 115173 is a Pak like the rest of us I doubt he is a Protector because we lack the nutrients. But back to the topic at hand.

    Even today Africa has most of the diversity in the human species. I wonder what would happen today if a group of african people became isolated from the rest of us. Diverse genes can lead to powerful selection pressure. I expect that this would have to happen off earth now.

    Also I also wonder what would happen to humans generally if we lost the genetic diversity currently banked in Africa. Nothing good I suspect.

  • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @02:08AM (#31607606) Journal

    I enjoyed the John Hawks analysis, and I agree that a mitochondrial sequence from a single bone is much less data than I'd like before concluding the existence of a new species.

    However, I don't agree with his main argument. Yes, the Neandertal population might have a 1 million year old divergence in their mitochondrial DNA, but that can't explain why the modern human/Neandertal divergence is only about half that. Under this hypothesis, the modern human diversity lies within the Neandertal.

    For this to work, basically a Neandertal has to wander from Europe into Africa, *and* she must be a maternal-line ancestor of Mitochondrial Eve. (Alternatively modern humans evolve in Europe from Neandertals, migrate to Africa and die out in Europe, only to return later. Basically this is the same scenario except for the subspecies of the African immigrant.)

  • by tloh (451585) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @03:06AM (#31607770)

    It's kinda late and I'm a bit brain-dead at the moment. But the first thing that came to my mind was...... The Abominable Snow Man. What are the chances that this ends up being the smoking gun for that oh-so-elusive cryptoid that has had people arguing about hairy wild apemen since time forgotten? Personally, I think it'll realistically end up being a case of contamination or something else mondan. But with the odd chance that this turns out to be scientifically investigatable, we can hang on to the slim hope that there are other samples out there waiting to be found.

  • by Daengbo (523424) <daengboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:18AM (#31607992) Homepage Journal

    There are more genetic differences among members of any given ethnic group than there are between members of any two ethnic groups

    I'm really quite surprised to hear this. I would never have guessed that ethnically pure members of the Mbundu or San tribes of Africa were less different from the S.E. Asian Lahu tribe (or even Koreans, being as homogenous as they are) than the members of these groups were amongst themselves. Do you have any prrof of this?

  • I don't know... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:41AM (#31608114) Journal

    The term Caucasian came about became some German thought the prettiest white people came from the Caucasus region in Eastern Europe.

    Considering how nationalistic Germans are, that guy must have felt quite strongly about it to pick some foreign group to be the role models of physical beauty.

    The Internet has confirmed his wisdom... all the beautiful big boobed babes with charming accents come from the Slavic countries. Search for yourself and see.

    Based on my extensive... erm... research in Internet porn, I have to wonder, if Johann Friedrich Blumenbach were alive today, would we end up calling it the Bohemian race? I mean, Silvia Saint, Angelina Crow, etc.

    Pretty much because, yes, his opinion of races seems to have had mostly to do with how pretty he found their women. E.g., he started with the blacks being pretty much sub-human and justified it then by cherry-picking skulls and a good dose of phrenology (an opinion that would influence pseudo-scientific racism to this day.) Then he made an 180 degree turns when he met a black woman beautiful enough to fall in love with (in his own words.) He then proceeded to "prove" by the same anatomical analysis methods as before that verily they're every bit as smart and talented and everything as the Caucasians.

    Could be worse, though. We could have a classification made by a gay dude with a foot fetish, for example :p

  • by Baki (72515) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:50AM (#31608154)

    Your reply w.r.t. neanderthals apparently assumes that neanderthals had lower intelligence.

    This is not true, or at least not proven. Just google "neanderthal intelligence" and you'll see many references that believe that neanderthals had higher or at least equal intelligence than homo sapiens. Also they interbred with homo sapience (google for "neanderthal interbreeding with humans" for many references to that claim), so "people like you" you were responding to do not have to give anthropology a bad name.

    Apart from that, it is not proven that each current human race must have the same average intelligence. On the contrary, there are indications that this is not the case.

    Ideologically motivated people can give anthrolopogy a bad name. This goes in both directions.

  • by Chakra5 (1417951) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @04:50AM (#31608156)

    Apes have intelligence and hands, but lack effective communication due to the inability to control vocalization ( like birds ).

    I would say that Apes have quite effective communication as do many creatures...it's just not (as) vocal. Vocal communication may be _more_ effective in many ways, but even a simple house cat does a hell of a lot more than meow if you know what to look for.

  • by Third Position (1725934) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:54AM (#31609944)

    Which one is the cause, and which one is the effect?

    Forty years ago, millions of people starved to death every year in China too, but the Chinese have a higher average IQ than Europeans. Millions more were also starving to death in India within living memory.

    I'm sure nutrition has a role to play in intelligence, but clearly it isn't the defining one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:22AM (#31611158)

    It's kinda late and I'm a bit brain-dead at the moment. But the first thing that came to my mind was...... The Abominable Snow Man. What are the chances that this ends up being the smoking gun for that oh-so-elusive cryptoid that has had people arguing about hairy wild apemen since time forgotten? Personally, I think it'll realistically end up being a case of contamination or something else mondan. But with the odd chance that this turns out to be scientifically investigatable, we can hang on to the slim hope that there are other samples out there waiting to be found.

    Not a Yeti but another group is a good candidate. They are called Almas among other names. Oddly enough the description fits the divergence nicely. They were described as tall and very hairy. The point being there's no evidence that Neanderthals were extremely hairy and were probably closer to humans in the amount of hair they had. Alma type people were described from Eastern Europe nearly to the Pacific Ocean. If this group survived up to even a few thousand years ago they could be the source of the stories. Remember the date given for Hobbit extinction is based strictly on the most recent bones. They have no extinction date in truth because there are far too few bones to set a date. Stories matching their description by locals stop in the mid 1800s so it's possible they survived until very recent times. The same could be true of Almas and this bone could possibly be evidence of Almas. This would bring the number hominids surviving until recent time to four. Three of the four seem to have gone extinct in the last 30,000 years. Climate could be a factor but the most likely cause would be humans. The locals in Flores even talk of burning to death the last Hobbits because they stole food and possibly young children. There's even stories about a group of hairy humans being massacred during the Russian civil war so the last of the Almas could have been wiped out in the early part of the last century. None of this is based on particularly extreme speculation. It's more extreme to think it purely coincidence that the locals on Flores described people that looked exactly like hobbits dying out in the 1800s. It points to a likely survival until recent times. The evidence for Almas is very thin at this point and amounts to a single finger bone but it's still intriguing and the old stories at the very least should be taken more seriously.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:46AM (#31611646) Homepage
    You are confusing two separate points. First, no one here has made the claim that intelligence is not genetic. It is clearly partially genetic. The matter at issue is whether or not there's any substantial genetic component to measured differences between intelligence levels in racial groups or whether that is due primarily to cultural and environmental effects. Also, if you are going to cite sources, try not to cite ones which have been as widely discredited ok?

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell

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