Tag Archives: Humans

Three recent publications in Nature, PNAS and Nature Ecology and Evolution


Reconciling taxon senescence with the Red Queen’s hypothesis (Zliobaite, Fortelius, Stenseth)


About it:





Productivity, biodiversity, and pathogens influence the global hunter-gatherer population density (Tallavaara, Eronen, Luoto)


Press release in English:


Press release in Finnish:



The rise and fall of the Old World savannah fauna and the origins of the African savannah biome (Kaya, Bibi, Zliobaite, Eronen, Tang, Fortelius)

(Access unfortunately not provided by our university):


About it:


Major transitions in human evolution – Advanced Seminar in Palaeobiology

We are pleased to announce:

Major transitions in human evolution – Advanced Seminar in Palaeobiology (54261)
Dates: 4.11.–16.12.
Time: Fridays 12.15-13.45 p.m.
Building/room: Physicum, D112,  Kumpula Campus Number of places: max. 30
Credits: 2-4

This seminar series will focus on the issues concerning human evolution addressed in recently published special paper compilation (http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/371/1698) and other relevant papers (including: http://www.isita-org.com/jass/Contents/ContentsVol94.htm):

Middle Pliocene hominin diversity – An earlier origin for stone tool making: implications for cognitive evolution and the transition to Homo – Morphological variation in Homo erectus and the origins of developmental plasticity – The evolution of body size and shape in the human career – The place of Homo floresiensis in human evolution – Filling the gap: Human cranial remains from Gombore II and the origin of Homo heidelbergensis – The origin and evolution of Homo sapiens – The transition to foraging for dense and predictable resources and its impact on the evolution of modern humans

You can get credit points for each of the following: Seminar presentation (compulsory, 2 credit points); Active participation in 75% of the classes verified by a personal seminar diary (1 credit point); writing an essay (1 credit point). The seminar thus yields a total of 2-4 credit points.

Please sign up for the course at weboodi (course code: 54261).

Laura Säilä & Mikael Fortelius

New species of Homo from South Africa – Welcome Homo naledi


Berger, L. R., Hawks, J., de Ruiter, D. J., Churchill, S. E., Schmid, P., Delezene, L. K., Kivell, T. L., Garvin, H. M., Williams, S. A., DeSilva, J. M., Skinner, M. M., Musiba, C. M., Cameron, N., Holliday, T. W., Harcourt-Smith, W., Ackermann, R. R., Bastir, M., Bogin, B., Bolter, D., Brophy, J., Cofran, Z. D., Congdon, K. A., Deane, A. S., Dembo, M., Drapeau, M., Elliott, M. C., Feuerriegel, E. M., Garcia-Martinez, D., Green, D. J., Gurtov, A., Irish, J. D., Kruger, A., Laird, M. F., Marchi, D., Meyer, M. R., Nalla, S., Negash, E. W., Orr, C. M., Radovcic, D., Schroeder, L., Scott, J. E., Throckmorton, Z., Tocheri, M. W., VanSickle, C., Walker, C. S., Wei, P. & Zipfel, B., 2015: Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa.

–eLife: Vol. 4, in press [doi: 10.7554/eLife.09560]

Also featured in National Geographic



3.3-million-year-old stone tools from Turkana, Kenya

As you might all remember, Meave Leakey talked quite a bit about these tools in her talk here in Helsinki, and now they’ve been published!

Nice write-up in the BBC website:

Oldest stone tools pre-date earliest humans: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-32804177

The actual paper:

3.3-million-year-old stone tools from Lomekwi 3, West Turkana, Kenya

Abstract: Human evolutionary scholars have long supposed that the earliest stone tools were made by the genus Homo and that this technological development was directly linked to climate change and the spread of savannah grasslands. New fieldwork in West Turkana, Kenya, has identified evidence of much earlier hominin technological behaviour. We report the discovery of Lomekwi 3, a 3.3-million-year-old archaeological site where in situ stone artefacts occur in spatiotemporal association with Pliocene hominin fossils in a wooded palaeoenvironment. The Lomekwi 3 knappers, with a developing understanding of stone’s fracture properties, combined core reduction with battering activities. Given the implications of the Lomekwi 3 assemblage for models aiming to converge environmental change, hominin evolution and technological origins, we propose for it the name ‘Lomekwian’, which predates the Oldowan by 700,000 years and marks a new beginning to the known archaeological record.


Our Skulls Didn’t Evolve to be Punched

A rather ‘interesting’ new paper in Biological Reviews claims that:

‘Hands evolved to punch faces. Faces evolved to take punches. That’s the hypothesis being bandied about by University of Utah researchers Michael Morgan and David Carrier, the pair proposing that the apparent “protective buttressing” of our skulls and hands is a sign of violent prehistoric fights where fists of fury dictated who would mate and who would exit the gene pool.’

Nice critique of the paper can be found here: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/06/10/our-skulls-didnt-evolve-to-be-punched/

And the original paper here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/brv.12112/full


Prof. Chris Stringer: “The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain”

Friday 9th May, the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Seminar and the Björn Kurtén Club proudly present:

Prof. Chris Stringer, Earth Sciences Department, Vertebrates and Anthropology Palaeobiology, Natural History Museum:

“The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain”

Prof. Stringer is a world leader in the study of human evolution and prehistory. He is visiting Finland on the occasion of the publication in Finnish by Gaudeamus of his recent book Lone Survivor (Vain yksi jäi).

Place & time:

Viikki B-building, Lecture hall 2

9.5., coffee served 09:00- and the talk starts 09:30.

​Prof. Stringer will also speak about the topic of his book in a public lecture on Thursday in Porthania:

Thursday 8th of May Chris Stringer: Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth

Chris Stringer (Natural History Museum, London), the author of the book Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth, will be in Helsinki and lecture about the early days of Homo sapiens. Where did we come from? How did we evolve? Chris Stringer will take a fascinating look at where, when, and how our species, Homo sapiens, evolved.

Time: Thursday 8th of May at 16.30 – about 17.45
Place: Porthania PIII, Yliopistonkatu 3.
Please registrate here: 

More information:

The departmental seminar – Prof. Mika Lavento

Hi All,

Departmental seminar series TODAY 24.4. at 14.00 in C108 (Physicum):

Prof. MIKA LAVENTO (Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, Helsinki University): Petra – a semi-aridic Desert for the Humans since the Middle Palaeolithic to Present. Jabal Haroun Region as a Case Study.

All are Welcome!


Neanderthals in your jeans, and Bjorn Kurten was right…

A Nature/Science pair of papers on Neanderthal genetics!


Links in there to the papers, but the summary is:

– One paper suggests that while modern humans have few Neanderthal genes individually, up to 20% of the species genome collectively is actually composed of Neanderthal genes.

– The second looks instead at different regions of the modern human genome and the relative Neanderthal influence on these. This is highly variable, with some areas heavily influenced and others not at all. Keratin is one of the heavily influenced areas, so links to skin, hair etc. The X chromosome is almost devoid of Neanderthal influence, suggesting that hybrid males would have been partly or wholly infertile – only some 36 years after Bjorn Kurten suggested exactly this with his ‘Children of the Gods’!

– Ian