Friday, 3 January 2014

Was Homo erectus the fourth hominin?

Skull of Homo erectus (Wikimedia Commons)
The current issue of Nature has a comprehensive analysis of the genome of Neanderthals and comparisons with modern humans and Denisovans (here). The supplementary material alone fills 16 Mb but there is an excellent summary (here) entitled "Four makes a party." As it says, "it does seem that Eurasia during the Late Pleistocene was an interesting place to be a hominin, with individuals of at least four quite divergent groups living, meeting and occasionally having sex."

The fourth hominin was alluded to in a previous post and is inferred from analysis of the Denisovan genome (previous post). The current study estimates that this putative hominin's ancestor diverged from other hominins 0.9-1.4 million years ago. This date is compatible with the unknown hominin being Homo erectus a hominin well known from the fossil record.

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