Category Archives: Human Evolution

Neanderthal DNA contributes to human gene expression

The last Neanderthal died 40,000 years ago, but much of their genome lives on, in bits and pieces, through modern humans. The impact of Neanderthals' genetic contribution has been uncertain: Do these snippets affect our genome's function, or are they just silent passengers along for the ride? In Cell on February 23, researchers report evidence…
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The Viruses That Made Us Human

The rise of the mammals may be feel like a familiar tale, but there’s a twist you likely don’t know about: If it wasn’t for a virus, it might not have happened at all. One of the few survivors of the asteroid impact 65 million years ago was a small, furry, shrew-like creature that lived…
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Ancient DNA study finds Phoenician from Carthage had European ancestry

A research team co-led by a scientist at New Zealand's University of Otago has sequenced the first complete mitochondrial genome of a 2500-year-old Phoenician dubbed the "Young Man of Byrsa" or "Ariche". This is the first ancient DNA to be obtained from Phoenician remains and the team's analysis shows that the man belonged to a…
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Humans are still evolving—and we can watch it happen

Many people think evolution requires thousands or millions of years, but biologists know it can happen fast. Now, thanks to the genomic revolution, researchers can actually track the population-level genetic shifts that mark evolution in action—and they’re doing this in humans. Two studies presented at the Biology of Genomes meeting here last week show how…
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How the introduction of farming changed the human genome

The introduction of agriculture into Europe about 8,500 years ago changed the way people lived right down to their DNA. Until recently, scientists could try to understand the way humans adapted genetically to changes that occurred thousands of years ago only by looking at DNA variation in today's populations. But our modern genomes contain mere…
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New Human Species with Orange-Size Brain Discovered

A newly discovered extinct human species may be the most primitive unearthed yet, with a brain about the size of an orange. But despite its small brain size, the early human performed ritual burials of its dead, researchers say. This newfound species from South Africa, named Homo naledi, possessed an unusual mix of features, such…
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The Tree of Life may be more like a bush

New species evolve whenever a lineage splits off into several. Because of this, the kinship between species is often described in terms of a 'tree of life', where every branch constitutes a species. Now, researchers at Uppsala University have found that evolution is more complex than this model would have it, and that the tree…
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How small genetic change in Yersinia pestis changed human history

While studying Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for epidemics of plague such as the Black Death, Wyndham Lathem, Ph.D., assistant professor in microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, found a single small genetic change that fundamentally influenced the evolution of the deadly pathogen, and thus the course of human history. In a paper…
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Humans Trekked Out of Africa Via Egypt, Study Suggests

The major gateway for modern humans out of Africa may have been Egypt, a new genetic analysis suggests. This finding may help scientists reconstruct how humans evolved as they wandered across the globe, the researchers added. Modern humans first arose about 200,000 years ago in Africa south of the Sahara. When and how the modern human…
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