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Archive for March 18th, 2012

A different kind of Human?

As Humans developed from ape-like predecessors, several sub-species evolved, as if Nature was trying several options, to see what worked best. Our species, Homo Sapiens, won that race and became not just dominant, but the sole surviving Human species (1). Neanderthal Man, the most well-known Human branch other than ours, was perhaps the most successful “other” Human species, and they’re gone. (2)

Now scientists think they may have discovered another, this time in China, a species that survived until surprisingly recent times:

The bones, which represent at least five individuals, have been dated to between 11,500 and 14,500 years ago.

But scientists are calling them simply the Red Deer Cave people, after one of the sites where they were unearthed.

The team has told the PLoS One journal that far more detailed analysis of the fossils is required before they can be ascribed to a new human lineage.

(…)

The remains of some of the individuals come from Maludong (or Red Deer Cave), near the city of Mengzi in Yunnan Province. A further skeleton was discovered at Longlin, in neighbouring Guangxi Province.

The skulls and teeth from the two locations are very similar to each other, suggesting they are from the same population.

But their features are quite distinct from what you might call a fully modern human, says the team. Instead, the Red Deer Cave people have a mix of archaic and modern characteristics.

In general, the individuals had rounded brain cases with prominent brow ridges. Their skull bones were quite thick. Their faces were quite short and flat and tucked under the brain, and they had broad noses.

Their jaws jutted forward but they lacked a modern-human-like chin. Computed Tomography (X-ray) scans of their brain cavities indicate they had modern-looking frontal lobes but quite archaic-looking anterior, or parietal, lobes. They also had large molar teeth.

Of course, nothing is settled yet, but it’s hoped that DNA investigations will reveal if these were non-Homo Sapiens people, Homo Sapiens who had adapted to local conditions, or a hybrid of Homo Sapiens and some other branch of Humanity.  Regardless, it’s a neat discovery.

Lovecraft fan that I am, though, I can’t help but note that these bones were found disturbingly near the reputed location of the Plateau of Leng. Or distant relatives of the Tcho-Tcho People? For the sake of their sanity, let’s hope these investigators don’t decide to “do a Jurassic Park.”

Notes:
(1) Other than NFL defensive linemen.
(2) Of course, there was this one kid in high school who looked like a throwback…

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