Archaeology / Cultural Heritage / History

[Archaeology] [twocolumns]

Anthropology / Human Evolution / Linguistics

[Anthropology] [twocolumns]

Palaeontology / Palaeoclimate / Earth Sciences

[Palaeontology] [twocolumns]

Evolution / Genetics / Biology

[Evolution][twocolumns]

New human ancestor discovered in Europe


Our upright posture may have originated in a common ancestor of humans and great apes who lived in Europe - and not in Africa, as previously thought. That’s the conclusion reached by an international research team headed by Professor Madelaine Bohme from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tubingen in a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature and the Journal of Human Evolution. Bohme has discovered fossils of a previously unknown primate in southern Germany. The fossils of Danuvius guggenmosi, which lived 11.62 million years ago, suggest that it was well adapted to both walking upright on two legs as well as using all four limbs while climbing. The ability to walk upright is considered a key characteristic of humans.

New human ancestor discovered in Europe
A male Danuvius guggenmosi probably looked something like this
[Credit: Universitat Tubingen]


The researchers say their analysis of the fossils show that Danuvius were able to walk on two legs nearly twelve million years ago. Up to now, the oldest evidence of an upright gait is a mere six million years old, and was found on the Mediterranean island of Crete as well as in Kenya.

New human ancestor discovered in Europe
On the basis of the fossils, the team reconstructed other bones
[Credit: Universitat Tubingen]
“The finds in southern Germany are a milestone in palaeoanthropology, because they raise fundamental questions about our previous understanding of the evolution of the great apes and humans,” says Bohme. Working with the Professor from Tubingen were researchers from Bulgaria, Germany, Canada and the United States.

New human ancestor discovered in Europe
The 21 bones of the most complete partial skeleton of a male Danuvius
[Credit: Universitat Tubingen]
Ever since Darwin, the early evolution of humans and our cousins, the great apes, has been intensely debated. At the center of these debates is the question of how humans came to walk on two legs. Did bipedal humans evolve from tree-dwelling, monkey-like apes which moved on all fours? From brachiating apes similar to orangutans?  Or from knuckle-walking apes like chimpanzees and gorillas? Over the last 150 years many hypotheses have been advocated, but supporting fossil evidence has so far mostly been lacking.

New human ancestor discovered in Europe
Part of the reconstructed skeleton
[Credit: Universitat Tubingen]


The Danuvius guggenmosi fossils were discovered between 2015 and 2018. Working in the Hammerschmiede clay pit in the Allgau region of Bavaria, Bohme and her team excavated more than 15,000 fossil vertebrate bones from the ancient humid and forested ecosystems that were abundant in southern Germany at that time. The new primate fossils include the remains of at least four individuals.

New human ancestor discovered in Europe
Bones from the hand of a male Danuvius
[Credit: Universitat Tubingen]
The most complete skeleton, of a male Danuvius, has body proportions similar to modern-day bonobos. Thanks to completely preserved limb bones, vertebra, finger and toe bones, the researchers were able to reconstruct the way Danuvius moved about in its environment. “For the first time, we were able to investigate several functionally important joints, including the elbow, hip, knee and ankle, in a single fossil skeleton of this age,” Bohme says. “It was astonishing for us to realize how similar certain bones are to humans, as opposed to great apes.”

New human ancestor discovered in Europe
Reconstruction (white bones) of the skull and lower jaw
[Credit: Universitat Tubingen]
The team’s findings indicate that Danuvius could walk on two legs and could also climb like an ape. The spine, with its S-shaped curve, held the body upright when standing on two legs. The animal’s build, posture, and the ways in which it moved are unique among primates. “Danuvius combines the hindlimb-dominated bipedality of humans with the forelimb-dominated climbing typical of living apes,” says Professor David Begun, a researcher from the University of Toronto.

New human ancestor discovered in Europe
Two chest vertebrae of a male Danuvius
[Credit: Universitat Tubingen]


These results suggest that human bipedality evolved in arboreal context over 12 million years ago. “In contrast to later hominins, Danuvius had a powerful, opposable big toe, which enabled it to grasp large and small branches securely,” says Professor Nikolai Spassov of the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

New human ancestor discovered in Europe
The big toe of a male Danuvius (white bones reconstructed)
[Credit: Universitat Tubingen]
Danuvius was about one meter in height. Females weighed about 18 kg, less than any great ape alive today. The male would have tipped the scales at about 31 kg, also at the low extreme of modern great ape body size. The ribcage was broad and flat, and the lower back was elongated; this helped to position the center of gravity over extended hips, knees and flat feet, as in bipeds. Several key-features of human bipedality have been found on bones from the leg.

New human ancestor discovered in Europe
Bones from the hand of a male Danuvius
[Credit: Universitat Tubingen]
These results received support from a recent independent study of a 10 million-year-old ape hip-bone found in Hungary. “That fossil also indicates that the European ancestors of African apes and humans differed from living gorillas and chimpanzees,” says David Begun, who was also involved in the study of the Hungarian fossil. The researchers point out that the ancestors we share with living African apes were as unique as we are today. “This newly identified pattern of positional behavior helps us to understand the starting point from which African apes and humans diverged,” he said, underlining the team’s basic premise.

Source: Universitat Tubingen [November 06, 2019]

TANN

Post A Comment
  • Blogger Comment using Blogger
  • Facebook Comment using Facebook
  • Disqus Comment using Disqus

1 comment :

  1. :-) Thanks a lot for this. Most likely, as we showed in our 2002 TREE paper (Verhaegen, Puech & Munro 2002 "Aquarboreal Ancestors?" Trends Ecol.Evol.17:212-7), bipedalism in hominids might have begun with climbing vertically & wading bipedally in forest swamps, not unlike bonobos & lowland gorillas that wade upright in search for AHV (aquatic herbaceous vegetation), google e.g. "bonobo wading" or "gorilla bai".

    ReplyDelete


Exhibitions / Travel

[Exhibitions] [bsummary]

Natural Heritage / Environment / Wildlife

[Natural Heritage] [list]

Astronomy / Astrobiology / Space Exploration

[Universe] [list]