New evidence from Le Moustier 1: computer-assisted reconstruction and morphometry of the skull.
In this study, we present a new computerized reconstruction of the Le Moustier 1 Neanderthal skull and discuss its significance for Neanderthal growth and variability. Because of the precarious state of preservation of the original material, we applied entirely noninvasive methods of fossil reconstruction and morphometry, using a combination of computed tomography, computer graphics, and stereolithography. After electronic restoration, the isolated original pieces were recomposed on the computer screen using external and internal anatomical clues to position the bone fragments and mirror images to complete missing parts. The inferred effects of general compressive deformation that occurred during fossilization were corrected by virtual decompression of the skull. The resulting new reconstruction of the Le Moustier 1 skull shows morphologic features close to the typical Neanderthal adult state. Residual asymmetry of skeletal parts can be traced to in vivo skeletal modification: the left mandibular joint shows signs of a healed condylar fracture, and the anatomy of the occipital region suggests mild plagiocephaly. Using micro-CT analysis, the left incus could be recovered from the matrix filling of the middle ear cavity. Its morphometric dimensions are similar to those of the La Ferrassie III incus. The morphometric characteristics of the inner ear deviate substantially from the condition reported as typical for Neanderthals and fall within the range of modern human variability. (+info)
Modelling the locomotor energetics of extinct hominids.
Bipedality is the defining characteristic of Hominidae and, as such, an understanding of the adaptive significance and functional implications of bipedality is imperative to any study of human evolution. Hominid bipedality is, presumably, a solution to some problem for the early hominids, one that has much to do with energy expenditure. Until recently, however, little attention could be focused on the quantifiable energetic aspects of bipedality as a unique locomotor form within Primates because of the inability to measure empirically the energy expenditure of non-modern hominids. A recently published method provides a way of circumventing the empirical measurement dilemma by calculating energy expenditure directly from anatomical variables and movement profiles. Although the origins of bipedality remain clouded, two discernible forms of locomotor anatomy are present in the hominid fossil record: the australopithecine and modern configurations. The australopithecine form is best represented by AL 288-1, a partial skeleton of Australopithecus afarensis, and is characterized as having short legs and a wide pelvis. The modern form is represented by modern humans and has long legs and a narrow pelvis. Human walking is optimized to take advantage of the changing levels of potential and kinetic energy that occur as the body and limbs move through the stride cycle. Although this optimization minimizes energy expenditure, some energy is required to maintain motion. I quantify this energy by developing a dynamic model that uses kinematic equations to determine energy expenditure. By representing both configurations with such a model, I can compare their rates of energy expenditure. I find that the australopithecine configuration uses less energy than that of a modern human. Despite arguments presented in the anthropological literature, the shortness of the legs of AL 288-1 provides no evidence that she was burdened with a compromised or transitional locomotor anatomy. Instead, she may well have been an effective biped at walking speeds, not despite her short legs, but rather because of them. (+info)
Group selection, altruism, reinforcement, and throwing in human evolution.
Evolution of altruism by group selection involves sacrifice of some individuals, not to the "group as a whole," but to other individuals in the group. Deme-group selection may establish strictly altruistic genes in a population, but only under limited conditions, and perhaps never among vertebrates, among which apparently altruistic behaviors may always potentially benefit the altruists. Responsive-group selection is a more effective mode of evolution of altruism, conspicuous in man. Evolutionary reinforcement increases the force of selection of advantageous behaviors, including altruistic ones, by making them pleasant or rewarding. It is probably involved also in ecological habitat selection, and may be the source of many human emotions, including esthetic ones. Throwing (of stones and weapons) exemplifies both the possible importance of a difficult-to-measure evolutionary factor and the role of reinforcement; in human evolution throwing may have been decisive in food-getting and fighting, in shifting emphasis from brute force to skill, and in inducing evolution of a brain able to handle three-body geometric problems precisely and thus preadapted for more complex functions. (+info)
The genetic legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in extant Europeans: a Y chromosome perspective.
A genetic perspective of human history in Europe was derived from 22 binary markers of the nonrecombining Y chromosome (NRY). Ten lineages account for >95% of the 1007 European Y chromosomes studied. Geographic distribution and age estimates of alleles are compatible with two Paleolithic and one Neolithic migratory episode that have contributed to the modern European gene pool. A significant correlation between the NRY haplotype data and principal components based on 95 protein markers was observed, indicating the effectiveness of NRY binary polymorphisms in the characterization of human population composition and history. (+info)
Os incae: variation in frequency in major human population groups.
The variation in frequency of the Inca bone was examined in major human populations around the world. The New World populations have generally high frequencies of the Inca bone, whereas lower frequencies occur in northeast Asians and Australians. Tibetan/Nepalese and Assam/Sikkim populations in northeast India have more Inca bones than do neighbouring populations. Among modern populations originally derived from eastern Asian population stock, the frequencies are highest in some of the marginal isolated groups. In Central and West Asia as well as in Europe, frequency of the Inca bone is relatively low. The incidence of the complete Inca bone is, moreover, very low in the western hemisphere of the Old World except for Subsaharan Africa. Subsaharan Africans show as a whole a second peak in the occurrence of the Inca bone. Geographical and ethnographical patterns of the frequency variation of the Inca bone found in this study indicate that the possible genetic background for the occurrence of this bone cannot be completely excluded. Relatively high frequencies of the Inca bone in Subsaharan Africans indicate that this trait is not a uniquely eastern Asian regional character. (+info)
Virtual anthropology: the digital evolution in anthropological sciences.
The discovery and explanation of differences among organisms is a major concern for evolutionary and systematic biologists. In physical anthropology, the discrimination of taxa and the qualitative and quantitative description of ontogenetic or evolutionary change require, of course, the analysis of morphological features. Since the 1960s, a remarkable amount of fossil material was excavated, some of it still awaiting a detailed first analysis, some of it requiring re-examination by more developed methods. While the fossil record grew continuously, a revolution in anthropological research took place with advances in computer technology in the 1980s: a handful of innovative researchers working in specialized anthropology laboratories or medical departments developed the methodological inventory needed to extract critical information from subjects in vivo and from fossilized remains. A considerable part of this information is preserved in the physically heretofore inaccessible interior of anatomical structures. Virtual Anthropology (VA) is a means of making them visible and measurable. Thus, VA also allows access to 'hidden' landmarks; in addition, the large number of semilandmarks accessible on the form enhances the power of Geometric Morphometrics analysis. Furthermore, the density information in volume data allows manipulations such as segmentation, impossible with the real, physical object. Moreover, metric body measurements generally, and cranial measurements specifically, are also an important source of information for the analysis of the ontogenetic development of the skeletal system, and--last but not least--for clinical use (e.g., operation planning, operation simulation, prosthetics). Thus, there developed a fruitful interdisciplinary cooperation between statistics, medicine, and physical anthropology. (+info)
Endogamy and variation in blood pressure levels in Croatian island isolates.
Blood pressure variation was investigated among populations inhabiting islands and peninsula of Middle Dalmatia, Croatia. The number of previous anthropological studies pointed to isolation and different genetic population structure in this environmentally fairly homogeneous area. Variation in blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) among the populations of the islands of Brac, Hvar, Korcula, and the Peljesac peninsula was assessed at three levels involving village populations, regional (western and eastern) populations and the entire island populations. The blood pressure data were collected from 3834 adult individuals inhabiting 37 rural communities and were adjusted for age and body mass index. Variation in blood pressure levels existed among regions and villages. Due to the history of differential settlement, small village sizes and high levels of reproductive isolation, the observed blood pressure variation could be attributed to founder effect, genetic drift and inbreeding. The involvement of genetic factors was tested by relating blood pressure variation among villages to degree of isolation among them. Blood pressure means and proportions of hypertensives increased with endogamy levels in males. In females, this effect could not be observed. However, in both sexes the highest proportions of hypertensives (more than 40%) were found in villages that are most reproductively closed (endogamy greater than 80%). These populations are considered particularly promising for further genetic epidemiological research. (+info)
Old World sources of the first New World human inhabitants: a comparative craniofacial view.
Human craniofacial data were used to assess the similarities and differences between recent and prehistoric Old World samples, and between these samples and a similar representation of samples from the New World. The data were analyzed by the neighbor-joining clustering procedure, assisted by bootstrapping and by canonical discriminant analysis score plots. The first entrants to the Western Hemisphere of maybe 15,000 years ago gave rise to the continuing native inhabitants south of the U.S.-Canadian border. These show no close association with any known mainland Asian population. Instead they show ties to the Ainu of Hokkaido and their Jomon predecessors in prehistoric Japan and to the Polynesians of remote Oceania. All of these also have ties to the Pleistocene and recent inhabitants of Europe and may represent an extension from a Late Pleistocene continuum of people across the northern fringe of the Old World. With roots in both the northwest and the northeast, these people can be described as Eurasian. The route of entry to the New World was at the northwestern edge. In contrast, the Inuit (Eskimo), the Aleut, and the Na-Dene speakers who had penetrated as far as the American Southwest within the last 1,000 years show more similarities to the mainland populations of East Asia. Although both the earlier and later arrivals in the New World show a mixture of traits characteristic of the northern edge of Old World occupation and the Chinese core of mainland Asia, the proportion of the latter is greater for the more recent entrants. (+info)