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Tolerance of smoke may have given us an edge over Neanderthals

Posted on 3 Aug 2016 in Featured, Genetics, Human Origins, Journalism

Where there’s fire there’s often smoke – which might have been bad news for Neanderthals and other ancient hominins. Modern humans carry a genetic mutation that reduces our sensitivity to cancer-causing chemicals found in wood smoke. But Neanderthals and Denisovans apparently lacked the mutation. Image: jmw120

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Neanderthal skulls and brains may have developed just like ours

Posted on 25 Jul 2016 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Great minds grow alike. Evidence from Neanderthals’ skulls suggests that their large brains grew in the same way as ours do. That in turn suggests that Neanderthals were perhaps not so cognitively different from us – although not everyone agrees with this interpretation. Image: p_a_h

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Mystery human hobbits ruled tiny Asian island 700,000 years ago

Posted on 8 Jun 2016 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

We may have finally found the ancestors of the mysterious miniature Homo floresiensis, aka the hobbit. A new cache of hobbit-like remains uncovered on the island of Flores answers at least some questions in the decade-long quest to understand the identity and origins of this tiny ancient hominin. Image: Kinez Riza

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Meet our hybrid ancestors who kept extinct humans’ DNA alive

Posted on 20 Apr 2016 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

Genes from our extinct cousins helped us conquer the planet. Without them, our ancestors may not have coped with unfamiliar diseases, thrived in the thin air of the high Tibetan plateau, or withstood the chilly winds of the Arctic. Image: Riebart

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The evolution of the nose: why is the human hooter so big?

Posted on 24 Mar 2016 in Evolution, Human Origins, Journalism

It’s an evolutionary mystery that’s literally as plain as the nose on your face. Why did our ancestors develop a prominent protruding nose when most primates have flat nasal openings? Image: M&R Glasgow

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Just how are we related to our chimp cousins?

Posted on 16 Mar 2016 in Human Origins, Journalism

Astonishing fossils are found every year, but we still haven’t dug up the original “missing link”. Where is this last common ancestor of humans and chimps? “I would love to know,” says Sergio Almécija of the George Washington University in Washington DC. “That question is keeping me awake at night.” Image: twoshortplanks

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