Biology Magazine

Human Evolution Weekly Update: Old DNA, Old Art & Sexy Men

Posted on the 24 October 2014 by Reprieve @EvoAnth

It’s the human evolution weekly update. No, this isn’t a review of how much we’ve evolved in the past week; but a review of cool discoveries about our ancestry. It’s “this week in human evolution”, but renamed. And boy, does is there a lot of updates. So no time for any more pre-amble, lets get right down to business.

  • A 45,000 year old femur from Siberia has yielded the oldest known human DNA. This sheds light on the human/neanderthal interbreeding; indicating it happened ~60,000 years ago and there were only a handful of interbreeding events. No peaceful amalgamation of the two species, sorry (read more).
The super-informative femur.

The super-informative femur.

  • 40,000 year old cave art has been found in Asia. Not only does this make it some of the oldest cave art in the world, but the only example of palaeolithic cave art outside of Europe. However, what’s most interesting is just how similar to the European art it is; perhaps suggesting there was some cultural contact between the two continents (read more)
The images from Asia

The images from Asia

  • A review of the habitat of Australopithecus (our more ape-like ancestors) has revealed they were surprisingly adaptable, capable of surviving in a large range of environments. Certainly a lot more than modern apes can live in (source).
Paranthropus (left), Australopithecus (centre) and early Homo (right)

Paranthropus (left), Australopithecus (centre) and early Homo (right)

  • Human women are more likely to view a man as attractive if they’re told his significant other is popular. I’m not sure if this has any evolutionary significance (although no doubt someone will try and read something into this) but I thought it offers an interesting glimpse into our psychology. Also, this effect was more pronounced in younger women (source).
If this hold true for chimps; whoever is dating the one in the middle has to be very attractive

If this hold true for chimps; whoever is dating the one in the middle has to be very attractive

  • An experiment compared the ability of human children and chimps to work together towards a goal. When both partners could see each other both species followed the same strategy with a similar level of success. However, when one partner was out of view of the other humans became a lot better at anticipating what their partner would do and adapting accordingly. As such, humans wound up being better than chimps in that situation (sauce).
In fairness, it's probably best chimps aren't that good at working together. They can already make spears; if they got organised we should be worried!

In fairness, it’s probably best chimps aren’t that good at working together. They can already make spears; if they got organised we should be worried!

  • Men from hunter-gatherer tribes are often thought of as large game hunters; taking down gazelle to feed their family. However, a new study of the Hadza reveals they actually spend most of their time going after small game or honey. The researchers concluded that a smaller, but consistent, source of food was more important than any big kills (sawce).
A palaeolithic engraving possibly showing  a woman hunting.

A palaeolithic engraving possibly showing a woman hunting.


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