Paleontologists from Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Swedish colleagues from Uppsala University, recently identified a unique canine tooth from Peking Man among the contents of the 40 cartons left unopened and forgotten at the Museum of Evolution at Swedish Uppsala University.
“The tooth has not been touched since it was dug up in the 1920s in China. We and our Chinese colleagues are overwhelmed. With today’s technology, a canine tooth that has not been handled can tell us so much more than in the past, such as what they ate,” said Per Ahlberg, professor of evolutionary developmental biology at Uppsala University.
Fossils from well-known Peking man are extremely rare, as most of the finds disappeared during World War II. All that remains in China today are five teeth and a few pieces of skull bone that were found in the 1950s and 1960s.
Swedish paleontologists were the first group of scientists to go to China in the early 20th century to carry out a series of expeditions in collaboration with Chinese colleagues. They found large numbers of fossils of dinosaurs and other vertebrates. The material was sent to Sweden and the well-known paleontologist Carl Wiman identified and described the fossils. But when the policy of research changed after Wiman’s death, 40 cartons were left unopened and forgotten. Just a few weeks ago, Ahlberg and his colleague Martin Kundrat, and Museum Director Jan Ove Ebbestad noticed the cartons in a museum storeroom. They have gone through the material and contacted Drs. LIU Wu and TONG Haowen, from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who were excited and flew to Sweden to confirm the identification of the tooth.
“This is an extremely important find. It is the only canine tooth in existence. It can yield important information about how Homo erectus lived in China,” said LIU Wu.
The Museum of Evolution kept the best collection of Chinese fossils of dinosaurs and other vertebrates outside of China, and the contents of the 40 cartons further enhance the value of the collection. The fossil material comes from several different areas in China. For example, specimens from Zhoukoudian, southwest of Beijing, were made of skulls and other skeletal parts, including this canine tooth from Homo erectus or Peking man.
Isaac Casanovas-Vilar, David M. Alba, Miguel Garcés, Josep M. Robles, and Salvador Moyà-Solà
Published online before print March 21, 2011,
Extant apes (Primates: Hominoidea) are the relics of a group that was much more diverse in the past. They originated in Africa around the Oligocene/Miocene boundary, but by the beginning of the Middle Miocene they expanded their range into Eurasia, where they experienced a far-reaching evolutionary radiation. A Eurasian origin of the great ape and human clade (Hominidae) has been favored by several authors, but the assessment of this hypothesis has been hampered by the lack of accurate datings for many Western Eurasian hominoids. Here we provide an updated chronology that incorporates recently discovered Iberian taxa and further reevaluates the age of many previously known sites on the basis of local biostratigraphic scales and magnetostratigraphic data. Our results show that identifiable Eurasian kenyapithecins (Griphopithecus and Kenyapithecus) are much younger than previously thought (ca. 14 Ma instead of 16 Ma), which casts serious doubts on the attribution of the hominoid tooth from Engelswies (16.3–16.5 Ma) to cf. Griphopithecus. This evidence is further consistent with an alternative scenario, according to which the Eurasian pongines and African hominines might have independently evolved in their respective continents from similar kenyapithecin ancestors, resulting from an early Middle Miocene intercontinental range extension followed by vicariance. This hypothesis, which would imply an independent origin of orthogrady in pongines and hominines, deserves further testing by accurately inferring the phylogenetic position of European dryopithecins, which might be stem pongines rather than stem hominines.
The discovery that Australopithecus had arched feet suggests this human
ancestor had already abandoned life in the trees
The transition to full-time terrestrial bipedality is a hallmark of human
evolution. A key correlate of human bipedalism is the development of
longitudinal and transverse arches of the foot that provide a rigid
propulsive lever and critical shock absorption during striding bipedal
gait. Evidence for arches in the earliest well-known Australopithecus
species, A. afarensis, has long been debated. A complete fourth metatarsal
of A. afarensis was recently discovered at Hadar, Ethiopia. It exhibits
torsion of the head relative to the base, a direct correlate of a
transverse arch in humans. The orientation of the proximal and distal ends
of the bone reflects a longitudinal arch. Further, the deep, flat base and
tarsal facets imply that its midfoot had no ape-like midtarsal break.
These features show that the A. afarensis foot was functionally like that
of modern humans and support the hypothesis that this species was a
committed terrestrial biped.
The Southern Route “Out of Africa”:
Evidence for an Early Expansion
of Modern Humans into Arabia
Simon J. Armitage,1 Sabah A. Jasim,2 Anthony E. Marks,3 Adrian G. Parker,4
Vitaly I. Usik,5 Hans-Peter Uerpmann6*
The timing of the dispersal of anatomically modern humans (AMH) out of Africa is a fundamental question in human evolutionary studies. Existing data suggest a rapid coastal exodus via the Indian Ocean rim around 60,000 years ago. We present evidence from Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates, demonstrating human presence in eastern Arabia during the last interglacial. The tool kit found at Jebel Faya has affinities to the late Middle Stone Age in northeast Africa, indicating that technological innovation was not necessary to facilitate migration into Arabia. Instead, we propose that low eustatic sea level and increased rainfall during the transition between marine isotope stages 6 and 5 allowed humans to populate Arabia. This evidence implies that AMH may have been present in South Asia before the Toba eruption
Science 28 January 2011:
Vol. 331 no. 6016 pp. 453-456
See also a discussion paper in Nature:
Archaeology: Trailblazers across Arabia
Michael D. Petraglia
(03 February 2011)
Kate Carter will give a course, 17.1.2011-16.5.2011 (Mondays, 14.15-16.00), about
The Human Fossil Record: Major Debates About Our Origins.
Late middle Eocene epoch of Libya yields earliest known radiation of African anthropoids
Jean-Jacques Jaeger, K. Christopher Beard, Yaowalak Chaimanee, Mustafa Salem, Mouloud Benammi, Osama Hlal, Pauline Coster, Awad A. Bilal, Philippe Duringer, Mathieu Schuster, et al.
Nature 467, 1095-1098 (27 October 2010) doi:10.1038/nature09425 Letter
Discussion Meeting issue 'The first four million years of human evolution'
organized and edited by Alan Walker and Chris Stringer:
Laura K. Säilä, PhD
For New debates about Ardipithecus:
Comment on the Paleoenvironment of Ardipithecus:
Response to Comment on the Paleoenvironment of Ardipithecus ramidus:
Comment on the Paleobiology and Classification of Ardipithecus ramidus:
Response to Comment on the Paleobiology and Classification of Ardipithecus ramidus: