Ordinary people evolve to have extraordinary capabilities on TV shows like “Heroes” and movies like the "X-Men" franchise. In real life, people don’t have genetic mutations that give rise to wings or telepathy, but scientists say human evolution is still happening. A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science offers some of the best evidence so far.
Researchers at the University of Quebec at Montreal examined a very detailed database of church records for residents of Ile aux Coudres, a tiny island northeast of Quebec City, Quebec, between 1799 and 1940.
We knew our story on a possible human ancestor called Australopithecus sediba would be controversial, but never expected more than 1,900 comments to come in.
The post generated some pretty intense discussions involving readers who do not believe these new findings - or any evidence of human evolution, for that matter - because of their religious beliefs. FULL POST
My deep commitment to understand the origins of humankind was ignited when I read Thomas Henry Huxley’s 1863 book "Man’s Place in Nature." The core idea that gripped my teenage mind was the suggestion that humans and African apes shared a common ancestor that roamed Africa millions of years ago.
I was riveted by the 1959 discovery of a 1.8 million-year-old skull at Olduvai Gorge and I knew that I wanted to travel to Africa and join the search for our ancestors. The allure of conducting fieldwork in remote unexplored regions of Africa dominated my thoughts throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies.
At a family reunion of the direct evolutionary predecessors of our species, there would be a lot of arguing over whether Australopithecus sediba gets in the door.
Australopithecus sediba is the name of an ancient species discovered in South Africa in 2008. Researchers now have substantial evidence, published in this week's edition of the journal Science, that Australopithecus sediba could be a direct ancestor of the Homo genus, of which humans are a part (we are Homo sapiens). If that's true, it means our family tree may have to be redrawn, with Australopithecus sediba at the stem of the Homo line.
But that's just one possibility, and a controversial one at that.
(CNN) - Apparently, there's a bit of Neanderthal in many of us, according to a newly released study.
Research says modern humans of non-African heritage have distant genetic ties to Neanderthals - cousins of modern humans who went extinct 30,000 years ago.
Published in Oxford Journals' "Molecular Biology and Evolution," the study backs up previous theories that humans and Neanderthals mated and had offspring.
The research is based on analysis of more than 6,000 DNA samples gathered from all populated continents.
In most of the samples, part of the human X chromosome called the haplotype shared a DNA sequence with the Neanderthal genome, said University of Montreal Professor Damian Labuta, who lead the study for CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center. But the Neanderthal sequence was not present in haplotype taken from people with sub-Saharan African heritage.
Neanderthals lived in what is now western Eur-Asia including parts of Germany, France, Spain, Russia and Croatia. Their ancestors left Africa at least 400,000 years ago, which likely explains why humans with African heritage don't have Neanderthal-linked chromosomes.
So is sharing DNA with Neanderthals a good thing?
Possibly, said Labuta. The mixing of genetic material between humans and Neanderthals 50,000 years ago may have helped modern day humans ward off dangerous diseases, funguses or viruses.
"Diversity is very important for long-term survival of a species," Labuda said on the phone from his Montreal office. "Whether this diversity in this case was useful, we don't know yet."
More study has to be done to find out if the genetic material gained from Neanderthals is simply "junk DNA" or served a useful purpose, he said.
Popular culture hasn't been kind to our ancient cousins, leading to the misperception that Neanderthals weren't intelligent. In fact, experts believe they were just as smart as modern humans.
Scholars have completed a dictionary after 90 years of work. Considering the language they were working on is 4,500 years old, they made pretty good time.
The University of Chicago's Oriental Institute this week announced completion of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, a work begun by institute founder James Henry Breasted in 1921.
The 21-volume, 9,700-page opus identifies, explains and provides citations for the words written in cuneiform on clay tablets and carved in stone by Babylonians, Assyrians and others in Mesopotamia between 2500 B.C. and A.D. 100. The first 20 volumes were published as they were completed, but now the work is complete.
Scientists have discovered new evidence suggesting that modern humans first left Africa to explore Eurasia much earlier than previously thought.
An international team of scientists has uncovered a tool kit that indicates that modern humans, who looked and perhaps behaved much like us, must have lived in eastern Arabia about 100,000 to 125,000 years ago. The collection of small hand axes, scrapers and other tools was found in Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates. A report about the discovery appears in the journal Science.
The people who made these tools "are our ancestors, I have no doubt about that," said Hans-Peter Uerpmann, of the University of Tubingen in Germany, who collaborated on the project, at a press teleconference Wednesday.
But the findings still do not prove definitively that modern humans made these tools, as the researchers did not find human remains near them, said Ted Goebel, anthropologist at Texas A&M University, who was not involved in the study. They potentially could have been made by Neanderthals or Neanderthal-like hominids, who were already in Eurasia at that time, Goebel said.
FULL STORY at CNN's This Just In