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Humans 250k years older than thought? Arose in multiple places?


From Will Dunham at Reuters,

Genetic data from the skeletal remains of seven people who lived centuries ago in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province is offering intriguing new evidence that our species, Homo sapiens, is older than previously believed.

Scientists said on Thursday they sequenced the genomes of the seven individuals including a boy who lived as a hunter-gatherer at Ballito Bay roughly 2,000 years ago. In doing so, they were able to estimate that the evolutionary split between Homo sapiens and ancestral human groups occurred 260,000 to 350,000 years ago.

Until recently, the prevailing belief was that Homo sapiens arose a bit before 200,000 years ago. The new study and fossil discoveries from Morocco announced in June indicate a much older origin.

There is broad agreement among scientists that Homo sapiens originated in Africa. But the recent discoveries have suggested our species arose not in one locale like east Africa but in multiple places, a more complex so-called pan-African origin that the new genetic research seems to support. More.

But what exactly does it mean to say that “our species arose not in one locale like east Africa but in multiple places”? That human beings might have different original ancestors despite our being, for all practical purposes, pretty much the same worldwide?

That level of convergence points to frontloading, if not design. If not, what do they mean?

Abstract: Southern Africa is consistently placed as a potential region for the evolution of Homo sapiens. We present genome sequences, up to 13x coverage, from seven ancient individuals from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Three Stone Age hunter-gatherers (about 2000 years old) were genetically similar to current-day southern San groups, while four Iron Age farmers (300 to 500 years old) were genetically similar to present-day Bantu-speakers. We estimate that all modern-day Khoe-San groups have been influenced by 9 to 30% genetic admixture from East Africans/Eurasians. Using traditional and new approaches, we estimate the first modern human population divergence time to between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago. This estimate increases the deepest divergence among modern humans, coinciding with anatomical developments of archaic humans into modern humans as represented in the local fossil record.Paper. (paywall) – Carina M. Schlebusch, Helena Malmström, Torsten Günther, Per Sjödin, Alexandra Coutinho, Hanna Edlund, Arielle R. Munters, Mário Vicente, Maryna Steyn, Himla Soodyall, Marlize Lombard, Mattias Jakobsson, Science

See also: Researchers: Evidence of life 3.95 billion years ago


Stasis: When life goes on but evolution does not happen

When you apply a sort of mathematical induction, a painful result is hard to avoid. Assign the variable t to "time interval from origin to now". For all living things, every time we re-examine or re-process the variable t, t grows larger. By induction the ultimate value of t is infinite. All living things have existed for an infinite time interval. My head hurts when I try to contemplate this. polistra
Until recently, the prevailing belief was that Homo sapiens arose a bit before 200,000 years ago. Now they estimated that it occurred 260,000 to 350,000 years ago. Hence the difference seems between 60+ and 150+ thousand years earlier. But those values could change again soon. However, the real issue to resolve is the fundamental evo-devo problem: Dev(d) = Dev(a) + Delta(a,d) Dionisio
If one could collect just 5 cents for every instance of the expressions: "...than previously believed" "...than previously thought" "...than previously assumed" or similars, that are appearing and will show up even more often in pop-sci and scientific journals in the future, it could raised a substantial fund for charity. Actually, expressions like "surprisingly, unexpectedly" which are appearing with increasing frequency could be included too. Maybe the lawyers here could help to setup this fundraising plan? :) Dionisio

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