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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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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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We don’t know which species should be classed as ‘human’

Posted on 11 Jan 2016 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

What literally makes us human? Surprisingly, there is no official answer. Some say our human genus should exclude even Neanderthals – others say that it should include chimpanzees and even gorillas. Image: Jack at Wikipedia

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Wolves turned into dogs by European hunter-gatherers

Posted on 14 Nov 2013 in Evolution, Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

European hunter-gatherers were the first to bring dogs to heel, perhaps as early as 32,000 years ago. Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones of 18 prehistoric canids from Eurasia, the US and Argentina have helped track down the continent on which wolves became dogs. Image: candybmw

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Arabian flights: early Eurasians diverged in 150 years

Posted on 2 Aug 2013 in Genetics, Human Origins, Journalism

Humanity’s dramatic race across the Old World after it left its African cradle has been told countless times. But for a true sense of the rapidity of events, look no further than the Y chromosome. The most comprehensive analysis of the Y yet shows that three key human groups appeared within just 150 years. Image: shabzillaa

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