Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
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Contact: Sandra Jacob (e-mail: info@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de, phone: +49 (0) 341-3550 122)
Approximately 2% of the DNA in the genomes of modern humans of non-African descent comes from Neandertals and recent studies have shown this DNA contributes to a number of phenotypes. New research published on April 03, 2017 in the journal Genome Biology looks at introgressed archaic DNA and explores the extent to which it influences modern human phenotypes.
Humans pride themselves on having extensive and diverse cultures. However, cultures can also be observed in animals. The research presented in this video aims at understanding the cultures of wild chimpanzee populations in several African countries and how they differ from each other. As chimpanzees avoid human contact, CHRISTOPHE BOESCH explains, the research team conducted the study by setting up camera traps to catch chimpanzee behavior on video. Forty locations were carefully selected to make sure interesting behavioral patterns would be observable. The vast amount of video material reveals how the diversity of chimpanzee culture is still underestimated: the chimpanzee groups exhibit a surprising variety of behavior, for example in food hunting or display, which is partly shaped by their environment. Sadly, this study also indicates to what extent the habitat of chimpanzees has already been irretrievably destroyed.
Modern humans colonized the whole planet and replaced all other hominids, such as Neanderthals. This evolvement raises interesting evolutionary questions concerning both species. The paleoanthropological research presented in this video looks at a moment in time when both co-existed. In order to find out about the differences between them, JEAN-JACQUES HUBLIN looks at both species’ use of technology, behavior, and social organization using molecular screening techniques and archeological research. While it has often been argued that the replacement of Neanderthals by the modern human occurred due to the modern human’s strong evolutionary superiority, this research counters that precisely because they once co-existed, Neanderthals must be more complex than previously assumed.
One of the 2016 Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences was bestowed to Max Planck director Svante Pääbo for pioneering the sequencing of ancient DNA and ancient genomes, thereby illuminating the origins of modern humans, our relationships to extinct relatives such as Neanderthals, and the evolution of human populations and traits. The seven prizes, each endowed with 3 Million US dollars, were awarded on 8 November in Silicon Valley, USA.
A good sense of smell may have contributed to the development of certain kinds of social functions in Homo sapiens, according to a new study. Scientists used 3D modeling to reconstruct modern human and Neanderthal brains and discovered that the olfactory areas, which govern smell, are larger in humans. Their models also show that humans have larger temporal lobes, regions related to social behavior. Future studies will explore the possibility of a connection between the olfactory and temporal regions of the brain and the evolution of sophisticated social behavior in humans.
The EU FP7 project CHRIS (Cooperative Human Robot Interaction System FP7 215805) was launched in 2008. The overall goal of the project is to address the fundamental issues which enable safe Human Robot Interaction (HRI). The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, one of the collaborators, has been studying human children, looking for clues in the way that humans learn to co-operate.
Dogs and humans have been living together for 15,000 years – a long time to get used to each other. Behavioural biologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig are investigating how well the animals have adapted to humans. They discovered that dogs are frequently better at understanding human gestures than other animal species. For example, dogs understand referential gestures, such as pointing, and realise they can get away with doing something forbidden when their owners just happen to be looking elsewhere.
Bence Viola from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig discovered the tooth fragments together with Russian colleagues in the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains. Initially, he thought the inconspicuous-looking object was the molar of a cave bear. But when the remaining fragments of the tooth turned up, it became obvious that the researchers had found the tooth of a hominid. It was too large, however, to be from a modern man or Neanderthal. When the researchers finally succeeded in decoding the DNA of the tooth, their suspicion was confirmed: it hailed from a previously unknown early human species living in Asia at least 30,000 years ago.
Gottfried Hohmann from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology is leading a Bonobo research project in the Congo. The researchers' everyday life, far removed from any civilisation, is quite arduous - even getting to the camp is a small adventure. For weeks, they are observing the animals' social and feeding habits. One of the things they want to discover is why bonobo males are less aggressive than male chimpanzees: could it be because the females band together with other females?
The Neandertal, the enigmatic Stone Age man who appears to have vanished without a trace from the earth 30,000 years ago, lives on in modern humans. Each of us carries up to four percent of Neandertal genes. Researchers working with Svante Pääno at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig worked on decoding the Neandertal genome for 20 years and compared it with the Homo sapiens genome. In the process, the researchers explored a series of questions: What does the Neandertal genome divulge about us modern humans, and how do we differ from each other? Which human capacities and characteristics hark back to Stone Age man? Why did our closest relative become extinct? One thing is now certain: the Neandertal and modern man mixed - and we are far more closely related than we previously believed.