Features of southeast European human ancestors influenced by lack of episodic glaciations

February 6, 2013
Rink WJ, Mercier N, Mihailovic´ D, Morley MW, Thompson JW, et al. (2013) New Radiometric Ages for the BH-1 Hominin from Balanica (Serbia): Implications for Understanding the Role of the Balkans in Middle Pleistocene Human Evolution. PLoS ONE 8(2): e54608. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054608 Credit: Mirjana Roksandic

A fragment of human lower jaw recovered from a Serbian cave is the oldest human ancestor found in this part of Europe, who probably evolved under different conditions than populations that inhabited more western parts of the continent at the same time, according to research published February 6 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by William Jack Rink of McMaster University, Canada, and the international team under the direction of Dušan Mihailović, University of Belgrade, Serbia, and Mirjana Roksandic, University of Winnipeg, Canada.

The fossil was found to be at least 397,000 years old and possibly older than 525,000 years old, a time when distinctly Neandertal traits began to appear in Europe. The evolution of these traits was strongly influenced by periodic isolation of groups of individuals, caused by episodic formation of glaciers. Humans in southeastern Europe were never geographically isolated from Asia and Africa by glaciers, and according to the authors, this resulted in different evolutionary forces acting on early in this region.

Roksandic explains that their study confirms the importance of southeast Europe as a 'gate to the continent' and one of the three main areas where humans, plants and animals sought refuge during glaciations in . She adds, "We have very few fossils of in general from this time, a period that was critical for shaping the appearance and evolution of uniquely human morphology and behaviors."

Explore further: New evidence for the earliest modern humans in Europe

More information: Rink WJ, Mercier N, Mihailovic D, Morley MW, Thompson JW, et al. (2013) New Radiometric Ages for the BH-1 Hominin from Balanica (Serbia): Implications for Understanding the Role of the Balkans in Middle Pleistocene Human Evolution. PLoS ONE 8(2): e54608. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054608

Related Stories

New evidence for the earliest modern humans in Europe

November 2, 2011

The timing, process and archeology of the peopling of Europe by early modern humans have been actively debated for more than a century. Reassessment of the anatomy and dating of a fragmentary upper jaw with three teeth from ...

Largest group of fossil humans are Neanderthals after all

June 13, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The world's largest known sample of fossil humans has been classified as the species Homo heidelbergensis but in fact are early Neanderthals, according to a study by Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History ...

Recommended for you

Outrageous heads led to outrageously large dinosaurs

September 27, 2016

Tyrannosaurus rex and other large meat-eating theropods were the biggest baddies on the prehistoric block, and ornaments on their heads could help us figure out why. New research from North Carolina State University shows ...

Ancient eggshell protein breaks through the DNA time barrier

September 27, 2016

Scientists from the Universities of Sheffield, York and Copenhagen have identified fossil proteins in a 3.8 million year-old ostrich eggshell, suggesting that proteins could provide valuable new insights into the evolutionary ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.