March 03, 2017

Incipient Mongoloids (or elusive Denisovans) 105-125kya in China?

The authors claim that these archaic humans from China show parallels to both modern eastern Eurasians (Mongoloids) and to Neandertals. The relationship with the Neandertals makes them prime candidates for the elusive Denisovans who were a sister group to Neandertals but are morphologically unknown (since all we've got is a genome, teeth, and a pinky). The relationship with Mongoloids suggest an appearance of Mongoloid morphology pre-dating the transition to sapiens, and brings to mind past claims about incipient Caucasoid morphology in Neandertals. Did aspects of modern Eurasian morphology originate in pre-sapiens archaic Eurasians? Hopefully someone's studying DNA from these crania as we speak.

Science 03 Mar 2017: Vol. 355, Issue 6328, pp. 969-972 DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2482

Late Pleistocene archaic human crania from Xuchang, China 

Zhan-Yang Li et al.

Two early Late Pleistocene (~105,000- to 125,000-year-old) crania from Lingjing, Xuchang, China, exhibit a morphological mosaic with differences from and similarities to their western contemporaries. They share pan–Old World trends in encephalization and in supraorbital, neurocranial vault, and nuchal gracilization. They reflect eastern Eurasian ancestry in having low, sagittally flat, and inferiorly broad neurocrania. They share occipital (suprainiac and nuchal torus) and temporal labyrinthine (semicircular canal) morphology with the Neandertals. This morphological combination reflects Pleistocene human evolutionary patterns in general biology, as well as both regional continuity and interregional population dynamics.