December 18, 2015

Archaic femur from Maludong, China

PLoS ONE 10(12): e0143332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143332

A Hominin Femur with Archaic Affinities from the Late Pleistocene of Southwest China

Darren Curnoe et al.

The number of Late Pleistocene hominin species and the timing of their extinction are issues receiving renewed attention following genomic evidence for interbreeding between the ancestors of some living humans and archaic taxa. Yet, major gaps in the fossil record and uncertainties surrounding the age of key fossils have meant that these questions remain poorly understood. Here we describe and compare a highly unusual femur from Late Pleistocene sediments at Maludong (Yunnan), Southwest China, recovered along with cranial remains that exhibit a mixture of anatomically modern human and archaic traits. Our studies show that the Maludong femur has affinities to archaic hominins, especially Lower Pleistocene femora. However, the scarcity of later Middle and Late Pleistocene archaic remains in East Asia makes an assessment of systematically relevant character states difficult, warranting caution in assigning the specimen to a species at this time. The Maludong fossil probably samples an archaic population that survived until around 14,000 years ago in the biogeographically complex region of Southwest China.



Clay said...

Is there any indication someone is trying to extract DNA from these remains?

terryt said...

That would be great, if possible. It lies on what is almost certainly an ancient route between South and East Asia.

AW said...

The paper hints that these people may have been Denisovans. That is a very interesting suggestion.

andrew said...

The fact that the data from the skull bones at the site and the data from the leg bones at the site do not confirm each other in degree of archaic features calls for a serious yellow caution flag on the results.

Also, the femur was studied in a museum context by people who didn't play a part in digging it up, and the discussion of the always critical process of dating the specimen was as a result perfunctory.

Given the extent to which this date is an extreme outlier to which maximal look elsewhere effects should be assumed in terms of improbably possibilities that can occur by random chance from a moderately large sample size of all ancient hominin bones, this really deserves a more rigorous analysis, even if that means tracking down some of the original archaeologists and field notes from the site which turns out to be quite inconvenient to do.