Friday, September 09, 2011

New missing link

NPR radio reports on a new missing link:
A pair of fossils from a South African cave have scientists both excited and puzzled. Scientists say the fossils — an adult female and a juvenile — could be the long-sought transition between ape-like ancestors and the first humans.

The bones belong to creatures related to the famous Lucy fossil found in Ethiopia in the 1970s, but their owners lived more recently — just 2 million years ago.

The reason for the excitement? Ask anthropologists what they dream about, and many will tell you it's the fossil of the last pre-human ancestor that led directly to us. Nobody's found it, and any who claim to usually get publicly whacked by their peers.
Publicly whacked? It seems to me that missing link claims get high praise.

In other hominid news, Neanderthal sex boosted immunity in modern humans, and It Wasn't Just Neanderthals: Ancient Humans Had Sex with Other Hominids:
Scientists have collected evidence for years that modern humans interbred with our ridge-browed Neanderthal ancestors in Eurasia. But in Africa, where the homo sapien species is said to have emerged, a lack of genetic evidence has left researchers scratching their heads about exactly how we came to beat out not only the Neanderthals, or homo neanderthalis, but also the other archaic species like homo erectus and homo habilus. A new paper published by Michael Hammer from the University of Arizona, however, provides new evidence that homo sapiens not only interbred with Neanderthals in Eurasia, they also had sex with several species of our ancestors across the African continent. And they did it often. "We think there were probably thousands of interbreeding events," said Hammer. "It happened relatively extensively and regularly."
Some of this is based on computer simulations.

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