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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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Original publication

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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Original publication