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Scientists Find the Skull of Humanity's Ancestor, on a Computer


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Computer reconstruction of a skull that may have belonged to the earliest common ancestor of living humans.

Researchers at the French National Museum of Natural History and the U.K.'s University of Cambridge used computerized-tomography scans of 260 modern-day skulls from various populations, as well as 100,000-year-old skulls from Israel, to reconstruct a virtual skull of the last common ancestor of modern humans.

Credit: Aurelien Mounier/CNRS-MNHN

Researchers at the French National Museum of Natural History and the U.K.'s University of Cambridge have reconstructed a virtual skull of the last common human ancestor using computerized-tomography scans of 260 modern-day skulls from various populations, and 100,000-year-old skulls from Israel.

The team also analyzed a series of extinct human relatives and plotted these species on an evolutionary tree, tracing skull development along each branch and ending at a model of the common ancestor.

The researchers compared this skull with actual African fossil skulls from the same era, identifying sufficient differences to speculate that the fossils belonged to three separate populations, rather than one.

Katerina Harvati at Germany's University of Tubingen said this research is "a really great way to test hypotheses about the fossil record."

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2019 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


 

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