Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 0
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 119
Contact: Sandra Jacob (e-mail: info@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de, phone: +49 (0) 341-3550 122)
Researchers have developed a new method to retrieve hominin DNA from cave sediments – even in the absence of skeletal remains
While there are numerous prehistoric sites in Europe and Asia that contain tools and other human-made artefacts, skeletal remains of ancient humans are scarce. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have therefore looked into new ways to get hold of ancient human DNA. From sediment samples collected at seven archaeological sites, the researchers “fished out” tiny DNA fragments that had once belonged to a variety of mammals, including our extinct human relatives. They retrieved DNA from Neandertals in cave sediments of four archaeological sites, also in layers where no hominin skeletal remains have been discovered. In addition, they found Denisovan DNA in sediments from Denisova Cave in Russia. These new developments now enable researchers to uncover the genetic affiliations of the former inhabitants of many archaeological sites which do not yield human remains.
Leipzig conservationist Julia Cissewski is one of this year’s five winners of the “Goldene Bild der Frau”, awarded for charitable work by Germany’s most important women’s magazine “Bild der Frau”. Julia Cissewski, a staff member of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, is the president of the charity „Orang-Utans in Not e.V.” (Orangutans in peril). The organization works to protect wild orangutans and their habitat, the rainforest of Borneo and Sumatra. This is the first time that the prize has been awarded to a conservation project. The award ceremony will take place on October 21st, in Hamburg.
Household income and knowledge about health risks drive the consumption of wild animal meat in West Africa
New analyses of interview data collected in Liberia show a decrease in bushmeat consumption and meal frequency during the Ebola crisis. However, wealthy households reduced their consumption of bushmeat less than poor households. Moreover, people who had knowledge on the health risks associated with eating bushmeat reduced their consumption substantially more than people who lacked this knowledge.
U-series (U-Th) dating of associated calcite formations constrains the age of the Middle Pleistocene cranium between 390,000 and 436,000 years.
An international team recently discovered a fossil human cranium in Portugal. The cranium was excavated in Gruta da Aroeira which is part of the Almonda cave system (Torres Novas, Portugal). The cranium was found in sediments which accumulated on top of a stalagmite column and calcite crusts also formed on the cranium after its burial. U-series dating of the calcite formations was done by Dirk Hoffmann from the Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. The results provided maximum and minimum ages for the cranium and revealed an age between 390,000 and 436,000 years. The Aroeira specimen is the westernmost Middle Pleistocene cranium found in Europe and one of the best dated Middle Pleistocene specimen. It might help elucidate hominin evolution in Europe during the Middle Pleistocene, including the origin of the Neandertals. The study, led by J. Daura from the University of Lisbon, included researchers from Portugal, Spain, Germany and the US.
Interview with primate researcher Christophe Boesch
Christophe Boesch, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has been researching chimpanzees in the Ivory Coast for over 35 years. In Taï National Park, the Max Planck scientist oversees three research camps that scientists can use for their research projects. Scientists have observed these wild chimpanzees, which have grown used to the presence of humans, over the course of several years. This has afforded them a wealth of new insights into the animals’ lives.