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Neanderthals

The Neanderthals or Neandertals are an extinct species of human in


the genus Homo, possibly a subspecies of Homo sapiens. They are very
closely related to modern humans, differing in DNA by only 0.3%,
which however is twice that of the widest DNA gap found among
contemporary humans. Remains left by Neanderthals include bones and
stone tools, which are found from Western Europe to central Asia. The
species is named after Neanderthal ("Neander Valley"), the location in
Germany where it was first discovered.
Neanderthals are generally classified by palaeontologists as the species
Homo neanderthalensis, but a minority consider them to be a
subspecies of Homo sapiens, (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis). The
first humans with proto-Neanderthal traits are believed to have existed in
Europe as early as 600,000350,000 years ago.
The exact date of their extinction is disputed. Fossils found in the
Vindija Cave in Croatia have been dated to between 33,000 and 32,000
years old, and Neanderthal artifacts from Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar are
believed to be less than 30,000 years old, but a recent study has redated
fossils at two Spanish sites as 45,000 years old, 10,000 years older than
previously thought, and may cast doubt on recent datings of other sites.
Cro-Magnon (early-modern-human) skeletal remains showing some
"Neanderthal traits" have been found in Lagar Velho (Portugal) and
dated to 24,500 years ago, suggesting that there may have been an
extensive admixture of the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal populations in
that region.
Several cultural assemblages have been linked to the Neanderthals in
Europe. The earliest, the Mousterian stone tool culture, dates to about
300,000 years ago. Late Mousterian artifacts were found in Gorham's
Cave on the south-facing coast of Gibraltar. Other tool cultures
associated with the Neanderthals include the Chtelperronian, the
Aurignacian, and the Gravettian; their tool assemblages appear to have
developed gradually within their populations, rather than being
introduced by new population groups arriving in the region.
With an average cranial capacity of 1600cc, Neanderthal's cranial
capacity is known to be notably larger than the 1400cc average for all
races of modern humans, indicating that their brain size was at least as
large, if not larger. In 2008, a group of scientists produced a study using
three-dimensional computer-assisted reconstructions of Neanderthal
infants based on fossils found in Russia and Syria. The study indicated
that Neanderthal and modern human brains were the same size at birth,
but by adulthood, the Neanderthal brain was larger than the modern
human brain. They were much stronger than modern humans, having
particularly strong arms and hands. Males stood 164168 cm (6566 in)
and females about 152156 cm (6061 in) tall.
Genetic evidence published in 2010 suggests that Neanderthals
contributed to the DNA of anatomically modern humans, probably
through interbreeding between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago with the
population of anatomically modern humans who had recently migrated
from Africa. According to the study, by the time that population began
dispersing across Eurasia, Neanderthals genes constituted as much as 1
4% of its genome (roughly equivalent to having one Neanderthal great-
great-great-grandparent). tzi the iceman, Europe's oldest preserved
mummy, was found to possess an even higher percentage of Neanderthal
ancestry. Recent findings suggest there may be even more Neanderthal
genes in human, non-African genes than previously expected, at about
20% of the human genome instead.
In December 2013, researchers reported evidence that Neanderthals
practiced burial behavior and intentionally buried their dead. In addition,
scientists reported, for the first time, the entire genome of a Neanderthal.
The genome was extracted from the toe bone of a 130,000-year-old
Neanderthal found in a Siberian cave.


Denisovan
Denisovans or Denisova hominins are Paleolithic-era members of a
species of Homo or subspecies of Homo sapiens. In March 2010,
scientists announced the discovery of a finger bone fragment of a
juvenile female who lived about 41,000 years ago, found in the remote
Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia, a cave which has also
been inhabited by Neanderthals and modern humans. Two teeth and a
toe bone belonging to different members of the same population have
since been reported.
Analysis of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of the finger bone showed
it to be genetically distinct from the mtDNAs of Neanderthals and
modern humans.Subsequent study of the nuclear genome from this
specimen suggests that this group shares a common origin with
Neanderthals, that they ranged from Siberia to Southeast Asia, and that
they lived among and interbred with the ancestors of some present-day
modern humans, with about 3% to 5% of the DNA of Melanesians and
Australian Aborigines deriving from Denisovans.
A comparison with the genome of a Neanderthal from the same cave
revealed significant local interbreeding, with local Neanderthal DNA
representing 17% of the Denisovan genome, while evidence was also
detected of interbreeding with an as yet unidentified ancient human
lineage. Similar analysis of a toe bone discovered in 2011 is underway,
while analysis of DNA from two teeth found in different layers than the
finger bone revealed an unexpected degree of mtDNA divergence
among Denisovans. In 2013, mitochondrial DNA from a 400,000 year
old hominin femur bone from Spain, which had been seen as either
Neanderthal or Homo heidelbergensis, was found to be closer to
Denisovan mtDNA than to Neanderthal mtDNA.

Little is known of the precise anatomical features of the Denisovans
since the only physical remains discovered thus far are the finger bone
and two teeth from which genetic material has been gathered, and a toe
bone. The single finger bone is unusually broad and robust, well outside
the variation seen in modern people. Surprisingly, it belonged to a
female, indicating the Denisovans were extremely robust, perhaps
similar in build to the Neanderthals. The tooth that has been
characterized shares no derived morphological features with Neanderthal
or modern humans. An initial morphological characterization of the toe
bone led to the suggestion that it may have belonged to a Neanderthal-
Denisovan hybrid individual, although a critic suggested the morphology
was inconclusive. This toe bone is currently undergoing DNA analysis
by Pbo.
Some older finds may or may not belong to the Denisovan line. These
includes the skulls from Dali and Maba, and a number of more
fragmentary remains from Asia. Asia is not well mapped with regard to
human evolution, and the above finds may represent a group of "Asian
Neanderthals".
Homo sapiens
Homo sapiens is the scientific name for the human species. Homo is the
human genus, which also includes Neanderthals and many other extinct
species of hominid; H. sapiens is the only surviving species of the genus
Homo. Modern humans are the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, which
differentiates them from what has been argued to be their direct
ancestor, Homo sapiens idaltu.
Scientific study of human evolution is concerned, primarily, with the
development of the genus Homo, but usually involves studying other
hominids and hominines as well, such as Australopithecus. "Modern
humans" are defined as the Homo sapiens species, of which the only
extant subspecies is known as Homo sapiens sapiens.
Homo sapiens idaltu (roughly translated as "elder wise human"), the
other known subspecies, is now extinct. Homo neanderthalensis, which
became extinct 30,000 years ago, has sometimes been classified as a
subspecies, "Homo sapiens neanderthalensis"; genetic studies now
suggest that the functional DNA of modern humans and Neanderthals
diverged 500,000 years ago.
Similarly, the discovered specimens of the Homo rhodesiensis species
have been classified by some as a subspecies, but this classification is
not widely accepted.
Anatomically modern humans first appear in the fossil record in Africa
about 195,000 years ago, and studies of molecular biology give evidence
that the approximate time of divergence from the common ancestor of
all modern human populations was 200,000 years ago. The broad study
of African genetic diversity found the San people to express the greatest
genetic diversity among the 113 distinct populations sampled, making
them one of 14 "ancestral population clusters". The research also located
the origin of modern human migration in south-western Africa, near the
coastal border of Namibia and Angola.
The evolutionary history of primates can be traced back 65 million years
(mya) Primates are one of the oldest of all surviving placental mammal
groups. The oldest known primate-like mammal species (those of the
genus Plesiadapis) come from North America, but inhabited Eurasia and
Africa on a wide scale during the tropical conditions of the Paleocene
and Eocene. Molecular evidence suggests that the last common ancestor
between humans and the remaining great apes diverged 48 million
years ago.
The gorillas were the first group to split, then the chimpanzees (genus
Pan) split off from the line leading to the humans. The functional
portion of human DNA is approximately 98.4% identical to that of
chimpanzees when comparing single nucleotide polymorphisms (see
human evolutionary genetics). Therefore, the closest living relatives of
humans are gorillas and chimpanzees, as they share a relatively recent
common ancestor.
Humans are probably most closely related to two chimpanzee species:
the Common Chimpanzee and the Bonobo. Current estimates of
suggested concurrence between functional human and chimpanzee DNA
sequences range between 95% and 99%.
Early estimates indicated that the human lineage may have diverged
from that of chimpanzees about five million years ago, and from that of
gorillas about eight million years ago. However, a hominid skull
discovered in Chad in 2001, classified as Sahelanthropus tchadensis, is
approximately seven million years old, and may be evidence of an
earlier divergence.
Human evolution is characterized by a number of important changes
morphological, developmental, physiological, and behaviouralwhich
have taken place since the split between the last common ancestor of
humans and chimpanzees. The first major morphological change was the
evolution of a bipedal locomotor adaptation from an arboreal or semi-
arboreal one, with all its attendant adaptations (a valgus knee, low
intermembral index (long legs relative to the arms), reduced upper-body
strength).
The human species developed a much larger brain than that of other
primates typically 1,400 cm in modern humans, over twice the size of
that of a chimpanzee or gorilla. The pattern of human postnatal brain
growth differs from that of other apes (heterochrony), and allows for
extended periods of social learning and language acquisition in juvenile
humans. Physical anthropologists argue that the differences between the
structure of human brains and those of other apes are even more
significant than their differences in size.
Other significant morphological changes included the evolution of a
power and precision grip, a reduced masticatory system, a reduction of
the canine tooth, and the descent of the larynx and hyoid bone, making
speech possible. An important physiological change in humans was the
evolution of hidden oestrus, or concealed ovulation, which may have
coincided with the evolution of important behavioural changes, such as
pair bonding. Another significant behavioural change was the
development of material culture, with human-made objects becoming
increasingly common and diversified over time. The relationship
between all these changes is the subject of ongoing debate.
The forces of natural selection have continued to operate on human
populations, with evidence that certain regions of the genome display
directional selection in the past 15,000 years.
Red Deer Cave People
The Red Deer Cave People were the most recent known prehistoric
population that do not resemble modern humans. Fossils dated between
14,500 and 11,500 years old were found in Red Deer Cave and Longlin
Cave in China. Having a mix of archaic and modern features, they are
tentatively thought to be a separate species of humans that became
extinct without contributing to the gene pool of modern humans.
Evidence shows large deer were cooked in the Red Deer Cave, giving
the people their name.
In 1979, the partial skull of a cave dweller was found in Longlin Cave in
the Guangxi Zhuang region of China. Further human remains were
excavated from Maludong (Red Deer Cave) in Yunnan Province. Fossils
of the Red Deer Cave dwellers were radiocarbon dated between 14,500
and 11,500 years of age, using charcoal found in the fossil deposits.
During the period the Red Deer Cave people lived, all other prehistoric
human species such as Neanderthals were thought to have died out. The
Red Deer Cave humans would therefore be more recent than Homo
floresiensis (dubbed "Hobbits") dated to 13,000 years ago. In spite of
their relatively recent age, the fossils exhibit features of more primitive
humans. The Red Deer Cave dwellers had the following distinctive
features that differ from modern humans: flat face, broad nose, jutting
jaw with no chin, large molars, prominent brows, thick skull bones, and
moderate-size brain.

Although the physical features of the Red Deer Cave people suggest that
they may be a previously undiscovered species of prehistoric human, the
scientists who discovered them are reluctant to classify them as a new
species. Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London has
suggested that they could be a result of mating between Denisovans and
modern humans. Other scientists remain skeptical, suggesting that the
unique features are within the variations expected for human
populations.
Attempts to extract DNA have been so far unsuccessful but are
continuing. Only once this is done will it be possible to determine the
relationship between this group and other modern humans.
Homo floresiensis
Homo floresiensis is an extinct species in the genus Homo. The remains
of an individual that would have stood about 3 feet (0.91 m) in height
were discovered in 2003 on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Partial
skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one
complete cranium (skull). These remains have been the subject of
intense research to determine whether they represent a species distinct
from modern humans. This hominin is remarkable for its small body and
brain and for its survival until relatively recent times (possibly as
recently as 12,000 years ago). Recovered alongside the skeletal remains
were stone tools from archaeological horizons ranging from 94,000 to
13,000 years ago. Some scholars suggest that the historical H.
floresiensis may be connected by folk memory to ebu gogo myths
prevalent on the isle of Flores.
The discoverers (archaeologist Mike Morwood and colleagues) proposed
that a variety of features, both primitive and derived, identify these
individuals as belonging to a new species, H. floresiensis, within the
taxonomic tribe of Hominini. Hominini currently comprises the extant
species Homo sapiens (the only living member of the genus Homo),
bonobo (genus Pan), and chimpanzee (genus Pan); their ancestors; and
the extinct lineages of their common ancestor. The discoverers also
proposed that H. floresiensis lived contemporaneously with modern
humans on Flores.
Doubts that the remains constitute a new species were soon voiced by
the Indonesian anthropologist Teuku Jacob, who suggested that the skull
of LB1 was a microcephalic modern human. Two studies by
paleoneurologist Dean Falk and her colleagues (2005, 2007) rejected
this possibility. Falk et al. (2005) has been rejected by Martin et al.
(2006) and Jacob et al. (2006), but defended by Morwood (2005) and
Argue, Donlon et al. (2006).
Two orthopedic researches published in 2007 reported evidence to
support species status for H. floresiensis. A study of three tokens of
carpal (wrist) bones concluded there were similarities to the carpal bones
of a chimpanzee or an early hominin such as Australopithecus and also
differences from the bones of modern humans. A study of the bones and
joints of the arm, shoulder, and lower limbs also concluded that
H. floresiensis was more similar to early humans and apes than modern
humans. In 2009, the publication of a cladistic analysis and a study of
comparative body measurements provided further support for the
hypothesis that H. floresiensis and Homo sapiens are separate species.
Critics of the claim for species status continue to believe that these
individuals are Homo sapiens possessing pathologies of anatomy and
physiology. A second hypothesis in this category is that the individuals
were born without a functioning thyroid, resulting in a type of endemic
cretinism (myxoedematous, ME).


Analysis of Denisovan from different websources
And so it begins. For years, evolutionary biologists have predicted that
new human species would start popping up in Asia as we begin to look
closely at fossilised bones found there. A new analysis of bones from
south-west China suggests there's truth to the forecast.
The distinctive skull (pictured, right) was unearthed in 1979 in Longlin
cave, Guangxi Province, but has only now been fully analysed. It has
thick bones, prominent brow ridges, a short flat face and lacks a
typically human chin. "In short, it is anatomically unique among all
members of the human evolutionary tree," says Darren Curnoe at the
University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
The skull, he says, presents an unusual mosaic of primitive features like
those seen in our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago, with
some modern traits similar to living people.
What's more, Curnoe and Ji Xueping of Yunnan University, China, have
found more evidence of the new hominin at a second site Malu cave in
Yunnan Province. Curnoe has dubbed the new group the Red Deer Cave
people because of their penchant for venison. "There is evidence that
they cooked large deer in Malu cave," he says.
Exactly where the Red Deer Cave people belong in our family tree is
unclear. Curnoe says they could be related to some of the earliest
members of our species (Homo sapiens), which evolved in Africa
around 200,000 years ago and then spread across Asia to reach China.
He prefers the idea that they represent a new evolutionary line that
evolved in East Asia in parallel with our species, just as Neanderthals
did primarily because they look very different to early African
members of our species.
There are other possible interpretations. Chris Stringer at the Natural
History Museum in London, says their distinctive primitive features
might suggest they are related to the enigmatic Denisovan people,
known from a 30,000 to 50,000-year-old finger bone and tooth found in
a Siberian cave.
We know that the Denisovans were living in East Asia, and from a DNA
analysis, that they mated with our direct ancestors. The Red Deer Cave
people, says Stringer, could even be the product of that mating.
Although we still do not know exactly where they came from, we do
know that the Red Deer Cave people survived until relatively recently.
Some of the newly described fossils are just 11,500 years old, suggesting
that unlike Neanderthals they made it through the height of the last ice
age.
They might not have been the only ancient humans to survive so late,
says Michael Petraglia at the University of Oxford. We already know of
human skeletons with unusual archaic features in south Asia and India
that are just 8000 years old.
The next step is to analyse DNA extracted from the Red Deer Cave
bones, which will tell us more about their owner's evolutionary history
whether they mated with any other hominins, for instance, and if they
are truly a new species that evolved entirely in East Asia, as Curnoe
believes, or are off-shoots of the Denisovan people.
Curnoe says an initial attempt to extract good DNA from the fossils
failed. "We are doing more work now involving three of the world's
major ancient DNA laboratories," he says. "We'll just have to wait and
see if we're successful."
Source:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21586#.UvwlSRXFKM8
A mysterious extinct branch of the human family tree that once interbred
with ours apparently lived in a vast range from Siberia to Southeast
Asia, mating with just as widely spread a group of modern humans,
scientists find.
This new research also demonstrates that contrary to the findings of the
largest previous genetic studies, modern humans apparently settled Asia
in multiple waves of migration, investigators added.
These lost relatives, known as the Denisovans, were discovered from at
least 30,000-year-old bones and teeth unearthed in the Siberian
Denisova cave in 2008. Analysis of DNA taken from these fossils
suggested they shared a common origin with Neanderthals, but were
nearly as genetically distinct from Neanderthals as Neanderthals were
from living people.
Source: http://www.livescience.com/16171-denisovans-humans-
widespread-sex-asia.html

Conclusion
A detailed comparison of the Denisovan, Neanderthal, and human
genomes has revealed evidence for a complex web of interbreeding
among the lineages. Through such interbreeding, 17% of the Denisova
genome represents DNA from the local Neanderthal population, while
evidence was also found of a contribution to the nuclear genome from an
ancient hominin lineage yet to be identified, perhaps the source of the
anomalously ancient mtDNA. There is evidence of a minimum 0.5%
Neanderthal gene flow into the Denisovans.
The Denisovan genome shared more derived alleles with the Altai
Neanderthal genome from Siberia than with the Vindija Neanderthal
genome from Croatia and the Mezmaiskaya Neanderthal genome from
the Caucasus, suggesting that the gene flow came from a population that
was more closely related to the Altai Neanderthal. It has also been
observed that the Denisovan genome comprises a component derived
from an unknown hominin that diverged long before the modern
human/Neanderthal/Denisovan separated, suggesting a possible gene
flow from said unknown hominin to Denisovans or a population sub-
structure.