(Phys.org) — The world’s largest known sample of fossil humans has been classified as the species Homo heidelbergensis but in fact are early Neanderthals, according to a study by Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum.
This puts the species Homo heidelbergensis back at the heart of human evolution as the last common ancestor that we, Homo sapiens, shared with Neanderthals, Homo neanderthalensis, says Stringer, the Museum’s Research Leader in Human Origins.
The Status of Homo heidelbergensis study, which was published in the journalEvolutionary Anthropology this week, reviews the fossil and DNA evidence for the existence of heidelbergensis and its place in the human family tree.
Central to the discussion is the important site of La Sima de los Huesos (meaning ‘Pit of the bones’), in Atapuerca, northern Spain. It has yielded more than 6,000 fossils from about 28 individuals. Read more.
In the 1930s archaeologists working at the site of Zhoukoudian near Beijing recovered an incredible trove of partial skulls and other bones representing some 40 individuals that would eventually be assigned to the early human species Homo erectus. The bones, which recent estimates put at around 770,000 years old, constitute the largest collection of H. erectus fossils ever found. They were China’s paleoanthropological pride and joy. And then they vanished.
According to historical accounts, in 1941 the most important fossils in the collection were packed in large wooden footlockers or crates to be turned over to the U.S. military for transport to the American Museum of Natural History in New York for safekeeping during World War II. But the fossils never made it to the U.S. Today, all scientists have are copies of the bones. The disappearance of the originals stands as one of the biggest mysteries in paleoanthropology. Read more.
VERO BEACH — City officials Tuesday could give permission to a group seeking to excavate for fossils in an area near the municipal airport.
Under the city’s historic preservation ordinance, the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee must get the OK from any landholders including the city, Indian River County, Indian River Farms Water Control District, the Florida East Coast Railroad and the Federal Aviation Administration before any excavation can begin, Planning and Development DirectorTim McGarry said.
The property is between Aviation Boulevard and U.S. 1, and includes a 300-foot right of way along the main canal.
"The first step is to designate the historic area of interest," said McGarry. "Although some of the land belongs to the airport and the county, we are the permitting arm because it’s in our district." Read more.
LONDON (AP) — British scientists have found scores of fossils the great evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin and his peers collected but that had been lost for more than 150 years.
Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang, a paleontologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, said Tuesday that he stumbled upon the glass slides containing the fossils in an old wooden cabinet that had been shoved in a “gloomy corner” of the massive, drafty British Geological Survey.
Using a flashlight to peer into the drawers and hold up a slide,Falcon-Lang saw one of the first specimens he had picked up was labeled ‘C. Darwin Esq.”
"It took me a while just to convince myself that it was Darwin’s signature on the slide," the paleontologist said, adding he soon realized it was a "quite important and overlooked" specimen. Read more.
ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2011) — Skeletal remains found in a South African cave may yield new clues to human development and answer key questions of the evolution of the human lineage, according to a series of papers released in the journal Science co-written by a Texas A&M University anthropology professor.
Researcher Darryl de Ruiter is part of an international team that examined the discovery in a cave about 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg and originally found in 2008. This same team named the new species, Australopithecus sediba, in April 2010. The team, composed of members from U.S., African, European and Australian universities, found multiple individuals of Australopithecus sediba that show both human-like and ape-like characteristics intermediate between Australopithecus and present-day humans.
"The key message is that these remains appear to be a transitional form of Australopithecus, intermediate between earlier australopiths and later Homo, the genus to which present-day humans belong," de Ruiter explains. Read more.
Fossils from the oldest known Antarctic “sea monster” have been found, a new study says.
The discovery of an 85-million-year-old plesiosaur has pushed back the marine reptile’s presence in Antarctica by 15 million years.
"The fragments we found don’t belong to any group registered on the continent before, which indicates a greater diversity of the plesiosaurs in Antarctica than previously suspected," said team leader Alexander Kellner, of the National Museum of Brazil at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Fragments of the vertebrae, head, and flippers suggest the newfound plesiosaur was 20 to 23 feet (6 to 7 meters) long. The bones weren’t, however, enough to identify the species of the plesiosaur.
Plesiosaurs roamed the seas worldwide between about 205 million to 65 million years ago, reaching the Southern Hemisphere by the mid-Jurassic. The animals had a range of different sizes and features, but mostly shared small heads, long necks, and big bodies.
"If the Loch Ness monster ever existed, this would be its best representation," Kellner said. Read more.
Washington, August 17 : The fossil of world’s oldest known fingernails has been found. The fossils were collected over the last seven years in northwestern Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin.
The prehistoric fingernails date to about 55.8 million years ago and belonged to a primate, now extinct, named Teilhardina brandti. This little lemur-like mammal measured just 6 inches long and lived in trees.
"While we are not sure about the original function of nails in primates, it seems clear that they evolved within the context of living in the trees, possibly associated with specialized grasping behaviours for moving in small diameter branches and manipulation of small food items (fruit, seeds, etc.)," co-author Jonathan Bloch told Discovery News.
"They are not exactly shaped like our nails," said Bloch, who is an associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus. Read more.
San Pedro Valley News - Two paleontologists, with a fascinating collection of prehistoric bones and fossils, will be hosting a free show for the community’s enjoyment.
Excavating the bones and fossilized remains of creatures that inhabited earth millions of years ago is Joe and Frona Fileccia’s passion. Known as the “Dino Seekers,” the couple will be sharing that passion with the public through an informational exhibit from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday at Frontier Fitness, 500 S. Highway 80 in Benson.
"We’ve always been interested in rocks and minerals and have been collecting rocks, minerals, bones and fossils for years now," said Frona. "It’s a dream come true for us to share what we’ve learned with the community, especially children." Read more.