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News/Press releases

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March 26, 2018: New standards for ancient protein studies set forth by multi-national group of researchers
© Franziska Irmer

The new field of palaeoproteomics, harnessing cutting-edge techniques to analyze ancient proteins, is growing quickly. Researchers set out standards and precautions that aim to provide it with a firm foundation.

A team of researchers from institutions at the leading edge of the new field of palaeoproteomics have published guidelines to provide it with a firm foundation. Ancient proteins are used to study everything from extinct species to ancient human diets to the evolution of diseases, and more. The guide, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, aims to support good practices in the field and to ensure the generation of robust, reproducible results. Researcher Frido Welker of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig is a co-lead author of the study.

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March 23, 2018: Germany was covered by glaciers 450,000 years ago
© MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology

New chronological data for the Middle Pleistocene glacial cycles push back the first glaciation and early human appearance in central Germany by about 100.000 years

Using state-of-the-art dating techniques researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have obtained new chronological data for the timing of the Elsterian and Saalian glacial cycles in central Germany. They found that the first Quaternary glaciation, which covered huge parts of Europe in ice, occurred as early as 450,000 years ago and not – as previously thought – around 350,000 years ago. The researcher further showed that once these glaciers had retreated, the first people appeared in central Germany around 400,000 years ago.

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March 21, 2018: New insights into the late history of Neandertals
© I. Crevecoeur

The genomes of five late Neandertals provide insights into Neandertal population history

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany have sequenced the genomes of five Neandertals that lived between 39,000 and 47,000 years ago, thereby learning about some of the last remaining Neandertals in Eurasia. These late Neandertals are all more closely related to the Neandertals that contributed DNA to modern human ancestors than an older Neandertal from the Altai Mountains that was previously sequenced. Their genomes also provide evidence for a turnover in the Neandertal population towards the end of Neandertal history.

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March 15, 2018: Scientists analyse oldest human DNA from Africa
© Abdeljalil Bouzouggar

Researchers find connections from Moroccan Stone Age dwellers to ancient Near Eastern and sub-Saharan African populations

An international team of researchers have sequenced DNA from individuals from Morocco dating to approximately 15,000 years ago. This is the oldest nuclear DNA from Africa ever successfully analyzed. The study, published in Science, shows that the individuals, dating to the Late Stone Age, had a genetic heritage that was in part similar to ancient Levantine Natufians and an uncharacterized sub-Saharan African lineage to which modern West Africans are genetically closest. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology contributed to this study.

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March 07, 2018: Homo naledi had wear-resistant molars
© MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology

The enigmatic 300,000-year-old South African hominin ate a lot of dust, grit, or phytoliths, silica ‘plant stones’

Homo naledi’s relatively taller and more wear resistant molars enabled it to have a much more abrasive diet than other South African hominins. This is the result of a recent study by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, the University of Durham in the United Kingdom and the University of Arkansas in the United States. The researchers conclude that Homo naledi may have eaten a much grittier diet than other South African hominins.

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February 22, 2018: Neanderthals thought like we do
© P. Saura

As early as 64,000 years ago Iberian Neanderthals created cave paintings

At least 70,000 years ago Homo sapiens used perforated marine shells and colour pigments. From around 40,000 years ago he created decorative items, jewellery and cave art in Europe. Using Uranium-Thorium dating an international team of researchers co-directed by Dirk Hoffmann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, now demonstrates that more than 115,000 years ago Neanderthals produced symbolic objects, and that they created cave art more than 20,000 years before modern humans first arrived in Europe. The researchers conclude that our cousins’ cognitive abilities were equivalent to our own.

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Original publication (Science)

Original publication (Science Advances)

February 15, 2018: Dramatic decline of Bornean orangutans
© Serge Wich

Global demand for natural resources has reduced the number of orangutans by more than 100,000 animals in the last 16 years

Nearly 50 years of conservation efforts have been unable to prevent orangutan numbers on Borneo from plummeting. The latest data published by a team from 38 international institutions, led by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Liverpool John Moores University in Great Britain, suggests that between 1999 and 2015 the total number of Bornean orangutans was reduced by more than 100,000 animals.

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January 24, 2018: Modern human brain organization emerged only recently
© MPI EVA/ S. Neubauer, Ph. Gunz (License: CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Homo sapiens fossils demonstrate a gradual evolution of the human brain towards its modern globular shape

In a paper researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, reveal how and when the typical globular brain shape of modern humans evolved. Their analyses based on changes in endocranial size and shape in Homo sapiens fossils show that brain organization, and possibly brain function, evolved gradually within our species and unexpectedly reached modern conditions only recently.

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