Neanderthal footprints discovery in Gibraltar?


This July 2016 video says about itself:

Our Neanderthals – Episode 1

The History of Science and Neanderthal Studies in Gibraltar

© GBC TV (Gibraltar) 2016

This video is the sequel.

From the University of Seville in Spain:

Neanderthal footprints found in Gibraltar

February 13, 2019

The international journal Quaternary Science Reviews has just published a paper which has involved the participation of Gibraltarian scientists from The Gibraltar National Museum alongside colleagues from Spain, Portugal and Japan. The results which have been published come from an area of the Catalan Bay Sand Dune.

This work started 10 years ago, when the first dates using the OSL method were obtained. It is then that the first traces of footprints left by vertebrates were found. In subsequent years the successive natural collapse of sand has revealed further material and has permitted a detailed study including new dates.

The sand sheets in the rampant dunes above Catalan Bay are a relic of the last glaciation, when sea level was up to 120 metres below present levels and a great field of dunes extended eastwards from the base of the Rock. The identified footprints correspond to species which are known, from fossil material, to have inhabited Gibraltar. The identified footprints correspond to Red Deer, Ibex, Aurochs, Leopard and Straight-tusked Elephant. In addition the scientists have found the footprint of a young human (106-126 cm in height), possibly Neanderthal, which dates to around 29 thousand years ago. It would coincide with late Neanderthal dates from Gorham’s Cave.

If confirmed to be Neanderthal, these dunes would become only the second site in the world with footprints attributed to these humans, the other being Vartop Cave in Romania. These findings add further international importance to the Gibraltar Pleistocene heritage, declared of World Heritage Value in 2016.

The research was supported by HM Government of Gibraltar under the Gibraltar Caves Project and the annual excavations in the Gibraltar Caves, with additional support to the external scientists from the Spanish EU project MICINN-FEDER: CGL2010-15810/BTE.

Minister for Heritage John Cortes MP commented, “This is extraordinary research and gives us an incredible insight into the wildlife community of Gibraltar’s past. We should all take a moment to imagine the scene when these animals walked across our landscape. It helps us understand the importance of looking after our heritage. I congratulate the research team on uncovering this fascinating, hidden evidence of our Rock’s past.”

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Trinil tigers, Indonesian Pleistocene tigers


This 30 January 2019 video says about itself:

Trinil Tiger: The Ancestor Of All Known Indonesian Tiger Subspecies?

Panthera tigris trinilensis

Temporal range: Pleistocene

Panthera tigris trinilensis, known as the “Trinil tiger”, is an extinct tiger subspecies dating from about 1.2 million years ago that was found at the locality of Trinil, Java, Indonesia. The fossil remains are now stored in the Dubois Collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Although these fossils have been found in Java, the Trinil tiger is probably not a direct ancestor of the Javan tiger. The Trinil tiger probably became extinct 50,000 years ago.

The Bali tiger was also not closely related to the Trinil tiger because of their time differences. It is thought that it might have been a bit smaller than the Bengal tigers and similar to the Indochinese tiger’s size.

The Trinil tiger was the oldest form of a tiger that lived 1.66 million years ago in Indonesia, particularly in Java, … according to some zoologists, it could be the ancestor of all known Indonesian subspecies. Perhaps, East Asia was a center of the origin of Pantherinae.

The oldest tiger fossils found in the Javanese Early Pleistocene show that about two million years ago, tigers were already quite common in East Asia. However, the glacial and interglacial climatic variations and other geological events may have caused repeated geographic changes in the area.

Food competition among large carnivores is a major incentive to increase body weight, so that this Pleistocene subspecies’s weight was slightly less than today’s Bengal tigers and weighed about 150 kg.

The reasons behind its extinction are not well understood.

Music: Best of 2017 Sad Cinematic Music, Royalty Free
By: Ender Gunny

Prehistoric hyenas, video


This 17 January 2019 video says about itself:

Chasmaporthetes, also known as hunting or running hyena, is an extinct genus of hyenas distributed in Eurasia, North America, and Africa. It lived during the Pliocene-Pleistocene epochs, from 4.9 million to 780,000 years ago, existing for about 4.12 million years.

The genus probably arose from Eurasian Miocene hyenas such as Thalassictis or Lycyaena, with C. borissiaki being the oldest known representative. It was a fast runner and an important carnivore on 4 continents during the Pliocene.

At least nine species are currently recognised. The genus type species is Chasmaporthetes ossifragus. It was assigned to Hyaenidae by Hay (1921), Geraads (1997), and Flynn (1998).

The species C. ossifragus was the only hyena to cross the Bering land bridge into the Americas. C. ossifragus ranged over what is now Arizona and Mexico during Blancan and early Irvingtonian Land Mammal ages, between 5.0 and 1.5 million years ago.

Chasmaporthetes was one of the so-called “dog-like” hyenas (of which the aardwolf is the only survivor), a hyaenid group which, in contrast to the now more common “bone-crushing” hyenas, evolved into slender-limbed, cursorial hunters like modern canids.

The genus has entered the popular culture lexicon as a result of cryptozoologic claims, having been proposed as the likely origin of the American Shunka Warakin and the Cuitlamiztli.

Chasmaporthetes was named by Hay (1921), who noted the name to be a reference to the possibility that the beginning of the Grand Canyon was witnessed by the North American species, C. ossifragus.

The limb bones of Chasmaporthetes were long and slender like those of cheetahs, and its cheek teeth were slender and sharp-edged like those of a cat. Chasmaporthetes likely inhabited open ground and was a daytime hunter.

In Europe, the species C. lunensis competed with the giant cheetah Acinonyx pardinensis, and may have preyed on the small bourbon gazelle (Gazella borbonica) and the chamois antelope (Procamptoceras brivatense).

The North American C. ossifragus was similar in build to C. lunensis, but had slightly more robust jaws and teeth. It may have preyed on the giant marmot Paenemarmota, and competed with the far more numerous Borophagus diversidens.

A study on the genus’ premolar intercuspid notches indicated Chasmaporthetes was likely hypercarnivorous rather than durophagous as its modern cousins (excluding the aardwolf) are.

Like most of the animals of the time, reasons for its extinction are not known.

Chinese fossil human relative’s teeth, new research


This November 2015 video says about itself:

Late Pleistocene Hominins of Continental Asia

Hominin evolution just got alot more complicated! Maria Martinon-Torres discusses her work with Chinese palaeoanthropologists in China.

From Ohio State University in the USA:

An ancient relative of humans shows a surprisingly modern trait

Study finds an archaic hominin had modern dental growth

January 16, 2019

A relative of modern humans that lived at least 104,000 years ago in northern China showed evidence of dental growth and development very similar to that of people today, a new study found.

An international team of scientists performed the first systematic assessment of dental growth and development in an East Asian archaic hominin fossil that is known as the Xujiayao juvenile.

The fossil is of a 6 1/2-year-old who lived between 104,000 and 248,000 years ago found at the Xujiayao site in northern China.

The researchers were surprised to find that in most ways, this child’s dental development was very similar to what you would find in a child today, said Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg, co-author of the study and professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University.

“The Xujiayao juvenile is the oldest fossil found in east Asia that has dental development comparable to modern humans,” Guatelli-Steinberg said.

“It may suggest that these archaic humans had a slow life history like modern humans, with a prolonged period of childhood dependency.”

The study was published today (1-16-19) in the journal Science Advances.

Teeth provide some of the best data anthropologists have about the growth and development of our ancient ancestors, she said. That’s because growth lines in teeth retain a record of dental development.

Compared to our primate cousins, modern humans — including their teeth — take a long time to form and develop. Anthropologists believe this characteristic is associated with humans’ longer periods of child dependency — how long a juvenile relies on support from a caregiver.

Among other techniques, the researchers used synchrotron X-ray imaging to look inside the fossil to see the internal structure of the teeth, including growth lines that revealed the rate of tooth development.

The results were surprising in part because so many other features of this hominin are not modern, such as the shape and thickness of the skull and the large size of the teeth, according to the researchers.

“We don’t know exactly where this enigmatic East Asian hominin fits in human evolution,” said Song Xing, lead author of the study, who is at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

“It has some affinities to archaic human relatives like the Denisovans and Neanderthals with, as we found, some more modern features. It is a strange mosaic.”

Using the growth lines in the teeth, the researchers estimated the death of the Xujiayao juvenile at about 6 1/2 years of age, said study co-author Mackie O’Hara, a graduate student in anthropology at Ohio State.

The first molar of this juvenile — what we call the 6-year-molar today — had erupted a few months before death and had started to wear a bit. The root was about three-quarters complete, similar to humans today.

“We found that this juvenile was growing up — at least dentally — according to a schedule similar to that of modern people,” O’Hara said.

Another aspect that was similar to modern humans was the perikymata, which are the incremental growth lines that appear on the surface of the tooth.

“We found that the way these perikymata were distributed on the Xujiayao juvenile teeth was close to what we see in modern humans, and not to Neanderthals,” Guatelli-Steinberg said.

Another interesting finding related to the long-period growth line, which is laid down about every eight days in modern humans.

“This juvenile had a 10-day rhythm, which you don’t see very often in early hominins,” she said. “Most of the early hominins had a shorter rhythm, closer to seven days. This is another aspect that is much more modern.”

The one aspect of dental development in the Xujiayao juvenile that was not modern was the rate of growth in the roots of the teeth. Here, the juvenile showed relatively fast growth, compared to a slower growth in modern humans.

While the dental development of this juvenile suggested it had a slow life course similar to modern humans, Guatelli-Steinberg cautioned that we don’t know what happens in later childhood in hominins like this one.

“It would be interesting to see if dental development in later childhood, such as the growth and development of third molars, was also similar to modern humans,” she said.

An ancient child from East Asia grew teeth like a modern human. The youngster’s species is unknown for now. By Bruce Bower, 2:12pm, January 16, 2019.

Modern human DNA computational analysis suggests that the extinct species was a hybrid of Neanderthals and Denisovans and cross bred with Out of Africa modern humans in Asia. This finding would explain that the hybrid found this summer in the caves of Denisova — the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father — was not an isolated case, but rather was part of a more general introgression process: here.

Human ancestors’ chimpanzee-like brains


This 19 December 2018 video says about itself:

Inside the head of Little Foot: Researchers reconstruct the brain of our 3.7 million year old ancestor

MicroCT scans of the Australopithecus fossil were used to reconstruct the brain

By Bruce Bower, 6:00am, January 10, 2019:

‘Little Foot’ skeleton reveals a brain much like a chimp’s

But the ancient hominid’s inner ear shows a mix of humanlike and apelike features

An ancient hominid skeleton dubbed Little Foot possessed a brain largely similar to that of modern chimpanzees and an inner ear with a mix of apelike and humanlike features, two studies suggest. These findings, along with other analyses of the adult female’s 3.67-million-year-old skeleton, point to the piecemeal evolution of humanlike traits in close relatives of our species, scientists say.

The research is part of the first formal analyses of Little Foot’s skeleton, which was discovered more than 20 years ago in a South African cave but was recently removed from its rocky encasing. Other analyses of trunk and limb bones indicate that Little Foot, who lived perhaps a million years before the emergence of the human genus, Homo, already walked upright about as well as people today do (SN: 1/19/19, p.13).

Although Little Foot consists of a nearly complete skeleton, her evolutionary identity is controversial. Paleoanthropologist Ronald Clarke of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg — Little Foot’s discoverer and a coauthor of the two new studies — assigns the find to Australopithecus prometheus, an early extinct hominid species that many scientists don’t regard as valid. Other researchers regard Little Foot as an early member of Australopithecus africanus, a species previously known from fossils discovered at several South African sites (SN: 1/19/19, p. 13).

In one of the new studies, Witwatersrand paleoanthropologist Amélie Beaudet and her colleagues compared a 3-D digital reconstruction, or endocast, of Little Foot’s brain surface with digital endocasts of 10 other South African hominid specimens dating to between roughly 1.5 million and 3 million years ago.

Little Foot had a small brain, only about one-third of the volume of a modern adult woman’s brain, the analyses showed. And overall, Little Foot had a more chimplike brain than any other southern African hominid, including specimens from species such as A. africanus and Paranthropus robustus, Beaudet’s team reports in the January Journal of Human Evolution. That’s not surprising, the investigators add, since Little Foot is also the oldest known southern African hominid.

Chimplike positioning of a tissue groove toward the back of the brain indicates that Little Foot had a proportionately larger neural area devoted to vision than people do, the researchers conclude. In human brains, a relatively smaller visual area makes room for an expanded neural section involved in integrating sensory and spatial information.

Still, a complex, humanlike set of blood vessels clustered on part of Little Foot’s brain surface could have fueled brain expansion observed in later hominids, the researchers say. “Even if Little Foot’s brain was different from ours, the vascular system that allows for blood flow and may control brain temperature was possibly already present,” Beaudet says.

What’s more, the left side of Little Foot’s brain protruded out slightly more in the back than the right side, the researchers say. Present-day humans and chimps possess such asymmetrical brains, as did hominids that evolutionarily followed Little Foot. Signs of brain asymmetry roughly 3.7 million years ago strengthen the possibility that this trait characterized the last common ancestor of hominids and modern great apes, which may have lived 7 million years ago or more, the investigators say.

But scientists disagree on how to interpret these endocasts. For example, paleoanthropologist Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee contends that 2-million- to 3-million-year-old hominid endocasts from eastern and southern Africa preserve grooves on the brain’s surface — created by adjacent tissue folds — positioned like those of present-day chimps. Other researchers argue that those particular furrows of brain tissue appear in humanlike positions on the same endocasts (SN Online: 3/26/18).

Falk sees no substantial differences between Little Foot’s endocast and those of A. africanus and P. robustus, which belonged to a large-jawed, small-brained hominid lineage that died out around a million years ago. And, she says, neural landmarks and blood vessels preserved on the inner surface of Little Foot’s skull won’t illuminate her particular species. “Endocast studies haven’t gotten that refined.”

Analyses of Little Foot’s inner ear seem to show more of a mix of chimplike and humanlike features, a second study finds. A computerized reconstruction of the ancient South African hominid’s inner ear bones reveals chimplike dimensions of a set of hoop-shaped structures, called the semicircular canals, that help control balance and motion, Beaudet’s team reports in the February Journal of Human Evolution. That configuration is consistent with Little Foot having engaged in a mix of two-legged walking and careful movement along tree branches, the researchers contend.

But a spiral-shaped inner ear cavity called the cochlea, which translates sound vibrations into nerve signals sent to the brain, looks more humanlike than chimplike in Little Foot, the researchers say. Inner ear similarities of Little Foot to other Australopithecus specimens leave unclear whether those hominids could hear the same range of sounds as people do today.

What makes us human, and where does this mysterious property of ‘humanness’ come from? Humans are genetically similar to chimpanzees and bonobos, yet there exist obvious behavioral and cognitive differences. Now, researchers have developed a strategy to more easily study the early development of human neurons compared with the neurons of nonhuman primates: here.

Genesis 2.0, new film on mammoths


This 2018 video says about itself:

SUNDANCE 2018 WINNER – BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

The hunt for white gold at the remotest edge of Siberia reveals a scenario of the future that may well turn our world upside down.

On the remote New Siberian Islands in the Arctic Ocean, hunters search for tusks of extinct mammoths. One day, they discover a surprisingly well-preserved mammoth carcass. Resurrecting the woolly mammoth is a first manifestation of the next great technological revolution – genetics.

I went to see this film on 11 January 2018.

A main person in this documentary is Semyon Egorovich Grigoriev, the director of the mammoth museum in Yakutsk in Siberia. He would like to bring a mammoth back to life by having fossil cells cloned.

Dutch Thijs van Kolfschoten, Leiden University paleontology professor, says in the VPRO gids, 12 January 2019, commenting on the film, that cloning mammoths would only become interesting for him if it would mean thousands of mammoths in a regenerated Pleistocene landscape.

Unfortunately, neither the VPRO gids article, nor the film mention the Pleistocene Park nature reserve in Siberia, where an experiment is going on in bringing back Ice Age plants and animals, in which mammoths might fit.

When predators attacked human ancestors


This 8 January 2019 video says about itself:

When Humans Were Prey

Not too long ago, our early human ancestors were under constant threat of attack from predators. And it turns out that this difficult chapter in our history may be responsible for the adaptations that allowed us to become so successful.

Thanks to Julio Lacerda and Studio 252mya for the illustrations of the Taung Child. You can find more of Julio’s work here.