Showy monkeys, neanderthal bling and more – Human evolution weekly update (20/3/15)

It’s time for the weekly human evolution update. Strap yourselves in and get caught up on the latest discoveries about us and our ancestors. The big story this week was the discovery that Neanderthals made necklaces out of eagle talons. Ok, that wasn’t the big


It’s time for the weekly human evolution update. Strap yourselves in and get caught up on the latest discoveries about us and our ancestors.

  • The big story this week was the discovery that Neanderthals made necklaces out of eagle talons. Ok, that wasn’t the big story. The key thing was the age of these necklaces, which predate anything similar made by humans. This confirms that the Neanderthals (read more).
One of the talons, with the marks indicative of necklacing highlighted

One of the talons, with the marks indicative of necklacing highlighted

  • Creationist craziness next; as the Institute for Creation Research argues that a study into linguistic evolution proves that human languages had multiple, independent origins; consistent with the story of Babel. Conveniently ignoring of course that the study explicitly dismisses this, noting how none of the languages they studied developed independently (read more).
The family tree from the paper, showing how all the languages examined had one root

The family tree from the paper, showing how all the languages examined had one root

  • Does showing off work? In monkeys the answer seems to be yes. A huge study examined “badges of status” (prominent beards, bright colours etc.) and found them to be correlated with reproductive success. This even held true in large, complex social groups. In fact, the benefits of showing off with beards were even more prominent in these groups. Can we make any inferences about humans from this? (source).

 

  • In genetics, a gene has been identified – ARHGAP11B – that may have contributed to the evolution of our brains. We have a unique variant, that when introduced into mice promotes brain growth and repair. Personally, I just want to know what they’ve done with these super smart mice (sawce).
  • Around the time humans were arriving in Europe the Neanderthals made some significant technological advances. Were they just copying humans? Obviously the timing of these developments is key to answering it. Recently a key site in this was redated, concluding the Neanderthal developments were younger than the human migration. It’s hard to draw definite conclusions from one site, but it’s a point against the Neanderthals (sauce).

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2 thoughts on “Showy monkeys, neanderthal bling and more – Human evolution weekly update (20/3/15)”

  1. Artem Kaznatcheev says:

    I am surprised that you didn’t cover the “8,000 Years Ago, 17 Women Reproduced for Every One Man” story that has been making the rounds. Are you planning to?

  2. Adam Benton says:

    I just completely missed that one. It certainly looks interesting; you may well have stumbled onto spoilers for next weeks update.

Leave your filthy monkey comments here.

More in Ancient technology, Evolution of our body, Evolution of our brain & behaviour, Pseudoscience and Creationism
Necklace reveals Neanderthals were the first artists

The Neanderthals were our closest relatives, living alongside us until they died out ~30,000 years ago. Why they went extinct is one of the biggest mysteries in human evolution. They...

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