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No known hominin is a common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans?

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ancient human teeth/ Aida Gómez-Robles, PNAS

So a recent study suggests:

The researchers, using quantitative methods focused on the shape of dental fossils, find that none of the usual suspects fits the expected profile of an ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans. They also present evidence that the lines that led to Neanderthals and modern humans diverged nearly 1 million years ago, much earlier than studies based on molecular evidence have suggested.

Of course, other sources now doubt that modern humans and Neanderthals diverged much at all. Neanderthal genome mapper Svante Paabo:

One thing that we’re beginning to see is that we are extremely closely related to the Neanderthals. They’re our relatives. In a way, they’re like a human ancestor 300,000 years ago. Which is something that leads you to think: what about the Neanderthals? What if they had survived a little longer and were with us today? After all, they disappeared only around 30,000 years ago, or, 2,000 generations ago. Had they survived, where would they be today? Would they be in a zoo? Or would they live in suburbia? These are the questions I like to think about.

More from the current team:

“Our results call attention to the strong discrepancies between molecular and paleontological estimates of the divergence time between Neanderthals and modern humans,” said Aida Gómez-Robles, lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral scientist at the Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology of The George Washington University. “These discrepancies cannot be simply ignored, but they have to be somehow reconciled.”

They conclude with high statistical confidence that none of the hominins usually proposed as a common ancestor, such as Homo heidelbergensis, H. erectus and H. antecessor, is a satisfactory match.

But wait, Homo heidelbergensis (Heidelberg man) is classified in some schemes as Neanderthal man anyway. So if they were our ancestors … ?

As it happens, in the present state of the art, there seems to be no reliable human family tree. So schemes need neither be ignored nor reconciled. They can be advanced post-modernly, oblivious to each other.

And anything like general doubt is anti-science. You must choose a scheme to believe, for self-protection, even if you have little confidence in its factual correctness or even organizational value.

One Reply to “No known hominin is a common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    of related note:

    Human/Ape Common Ancestry: Following the Evidence – Casey Luskin – June 2011
    Excerpt: So the researchers constructed an evolutionary tree based on 129 skull and tooth measurements for living hominoids, including gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and humans, and did the same with 62 measurements recorded on Old World monkeys, including baboons, mangabeys and macaques. They also drew upon published molecular phylogenies. At the outset, Wood and Collard assumed the molecular evidence was correct. “There were so many different lines of genetic evidence pointing in one direction,” Collard explains. But no matter how the computer analysis was run, the molecular and morphological trees could not be made to match15 (see figure, below). Collard says this casts grave doubt on the reliability of using morphological evidence to determine the fine details of evolutionary trees for higher primates. “It is saying it is positively misleading,” he says. The abstract of the pair’s paper stated provocatively that “existing phylogenetic hypotheses about human evolution are unlikely to be reliable”.[10]

    Skull “Rewrites” Story of Human Evolution — Again – Casey Luskin – October 22, 2013
    Excerpt: “I think it’s probably premature to dump everything into Homo erectus,” Johanson told NBC News. “This is what you’re going to find the most opposition to.”,,,
    “There is a big gap in the fossil record,” Zollikofer told NBC News. “I would put a question mark there. Of course it would be nice to say this was the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and us, but we simply don’t know.”

    Later Hominins: The Australopithecine Gap – Casey Luskin – August 2012
    Excerpt: Paleoanthropologist Leslie Aiello, who served as head of the anthropology department at University College London, states that when it comes to locomotion, “australopithecines are like apes, and the Homo group are like humans. Something major occurred when Homo evolved, and it wasn’t just in the brain.” The “something major” that occurred was the abrupt appearance of the human body plan — without direct evolutionary precursors in the fossil record.

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