Originally published 06/11/2013
A benign bone tumor that afflicts modern-day humans has now been found in one of our ancestors: a Neanderthal more than 120,000 years old.The discovery of a fibrous dysplasia in a Neanderthal rib is the earliest known bone tumor on record, predating other tumors by more than 100,000 years. The rib, recovered from a site in Krapina, Croatia, indicates that Neanderthals were susceptible to the same types of tumors modern-day humans get, despite living in a remarkably different environment."They didn't have pesticides, but they probably were sleeping in caves with burning fires," says David Frayer, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas and the co-author of a new paper about the discovery. "They were probably inhaling a lot of smoke from the caves. So the air was not completely free of pollutants—but certainly, these Neanderthals weren't smoking cigarettes."...
Originally published 02/13/2013
A fragment of lower jaw recovered from a Serbian cave has now been dated as the oldest hominin ancestor found in this part of Europe. The fossil was dated to between 397,000 and 525,000 years old, a time when distinctly Neanderthal traits began to appear in Europe. The evolution of these traits was strongly influenced by periodic isolation of groups of individuals, caused by glacial episodes. According to research published in February 2012 in the open access journal PLoS ONE, the individual probably evolved under different conditions than populations who inhabited more western parts of the continent during the same time frame....