Modern humans out of Africa sooner than thought

October 14, 2015
47 human teeth found from the Fuyan Cave, Daoxian Credit: S. Xing and X-J. Wu

Human teeth discovered in southern China provide evidence that our species left the African continent up to 70,000 years earlier than prevailing theories suggest, a study published on Wednesday said.

Homo sapiens reached present-day China 80,000-120,000 years ago, according to the study, which could redraw the migration map for modern humans.

"The model that is generally accepted is that modern humans left Africa only 50,000 years ago," said Maria Martinon-Torres, a researcher at University College London and a co-author of the study.

"In this case, we are saying the H. sapiens is out of Africa much earlier," she told the peer-reviewed journal Nature, which published the study.

While the route they travelled remains unknown, previous research suggests the most likely path out of East Africa to east Asia was across the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East.

The findings also mean that the first truly modern humans—thought to have emerged in east Africa some 200,000 years ago—landed in China well before they went to Europe.

There is no evidence to suggest that H. sapiens entered the European continent earlier than 45,000 years ago, at least 40,000 years after they showed up in present-day China.

The 47 teeth exhumed from a knee-deep layer of grey, sandy clay inside the Fuyan Cave near the town of Daoxian closely resemble the dental gear of "contemporary humans," according to the study.

They could only have come from a population that migrated from Africa, rather than one that evolved from an another of early man such as the extinct Homo erectus, the authors said.

The scientists also unearthed the remains of some 38 mammals, including specimens of five extinct species, one of them a giant panda larger than those in existence today.

No tools were found.

"Judging by the cave environment, it may not have been a living place for humans," lead author Wu Liu from the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing told AFP.

Geographical location and interior views of the Fuyan Cave, Doaxian with dating sample (lower left), plan view of the excavation area with stratigraphy layer marked (center), the spatial relationship of the excavated regions and researcher finding human tooth (right). Credit: Y-J Cai, X-X Yang, and X-J Wu

Why not Europe?

The study, published in the journal Nature, also rewrites the timeline of early man in China.

Up to now, the earliest proof of H. sapiens east of the Arabian Peninsula came from the Tianyuan Cave near Beijing, and dated from no more than 40,000 years ago.

The new discovery raises questions about why it took so long for H. sapiens to find their way to nearby Europe.

"Why is it that —who were already at the gates—didn't really get into Europe?", Martinon-Torres asked.

Wu and colleagues propose two explanations.

The first is the intimidating presence of Neanderthal man. While this species of early human eventually died out, they were spread across the European continent up until at least some 50,000 years ago.

"The classic idea is that H. sapiens... took over the Neanderthal empire, but maybe Neanderthals were a kind of ecological barrier, and Europe was too small a place" for both, Martinon-Torres said.

Another impediment might have been the cold.

Up until the Ice Age ended 12,000 years ago, ice sheets stretched across a good part of the European continent, a forbidding environment for a new species emerging from the relative warmth of East Africa.

"H. sapiens originated in or near the tropics, so it makes sense that the species' initial dispersal was eastwards rather than northwards, where winter temperatures rapidly fell below freezing," Robin Dennell of the University of Exeter said in a commentary, also in Nature.

Human upper teeth found from the Fuyan Cave, Daoxian. Credit: S. Xing

Martinon-Torres laid out some of the questions to be addressed in future research, using both genetics and fossil records.

A near miss

"What are the origins of these populations, and what was their fate? Did they vanish? Could they be the ancestors of later and current populations that entered Europe?"

She also suggested there might have been "different movements and migrations" out of Africa, not just one.

Besides the prehistoric panda, called Ailuropoda baconi, the scientists found an of a giant spotted hyaena.

Human lower teeth found from the Fuyan Cave, Daoxian. Credit: S. Xing

An elephant-like creature called Stegodon orientalis and a giant tapir, also present, were species that may have survived into the era when the Chinese had developed writing, some 3500 years ago.

The cache of teeth nearly went unnoticed, Wu told AFP.

He and his Chinese colleagues discovered the cave—and its menagerie of long-deceased animals—in the 1980s, but had no inkling that it also contained human remains.

But 25 years later, while revisiting the site, Wu had a hunch.

"By thinking about the cave environment, we realised that human fossils might be found there," he told AFP by email. "So we started a five-year excavation."

Explore further: World's oldest human remains claimed in Israel

More information: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature15696

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16 comments

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24volts
5 / 5 (1) Oct 14, 2015
I'll never understand why scientist talk like there was one great wave of people coming out of Africa.
There were probably many small groups that moved over time due to various reasons such as drought, following the animal herds they hunted, another tribe killing them off to take their hunting grounds, plague, ETC...
All kinds of possible reasons for people to move.
JVK
1 / 5 (4) Oct 14, 2015
They could only have come from a population that migrated from Africa, rather than one that evolved from an another species of early man such as the extinct Homo erectus, the authors said.


Others have linked nutrient-dependent microRNAs and energy-dependent base pair changes to dynamic changes in supercoiled DNA and adhesion proteins that prevent virus-driven genomic entropy. For example see: http://www.ncbi.n...24693353

"These two reports (Grossman et al., 2013; Kamberov et al., 2013) tell a new short story of adaptive evolution. The story begins with what was probably a nutrient-dependent variant allele that arose in central China approximately 30,000 years ago. The effect of the allele is adaptive and it is manifested in the context of an effect on sweat, skin, hair, and teeth. In other mammals, like the mouse, the effect on sweat, skin, hair, and teeth is due to an epigenetic effect of nutrients on hormones responsible for..."
JVK
1.3 / 5 (4) Oct 14, 2015
See also: http://phys.org/n...tml#nRlv
World's oldest human remains claimed in Israel

I wonder if any serious scientists in Israel are making that claim now that middle-school children are being taught the Theory of Evolution at the same time they learn the facts about ecological variation and ecological adaptation.

Israeli Middle Schools School to Include Theory of Evolution http://www.educat...olution/

"...learning about evolution is not the primary function of the decision, but rather to use it as a building block for students to learn more about their ecology."

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to teach a middle school student to believe in a ridiculous theory after they had learned the facts about nutrient-dependent ecological speciation, which is controlled by the physiology of reproduction?
Vietvet
4.4 / 5 (7) Oct 14, 2015
They are taught the theory of evolution because it is backed with evidence.

Mutational 'hot spot' leads to adaptation in high-altitude birds

To test whether the altitudinal difference in mutation frequency was caused by natural selection, the team then examined patterns of variation at DNA sites scattered throughout the species' genome."
"The genomic analysis revealed that the level of altitudinal differentiation at that single mutational 'hot spot' is much larger than what we see across the genome as a whole," Storz said. "That pattern suggests that the site-specific differentiation was caused by natural selection that favored different protein variants in different elevation zones."

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

Vietvet
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 14, 2015
Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model.
Kohl JV1.
http://www.ncbi.n...24693353

Criticisms of the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled evolutionary model
http://www.ncbi.n...4049134/
Vietvet
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 14, 2015
Significance

"Within a given gene, there may be many possible mutations that are capable of producing a particular change in phenotype. However, if some sites have especially high rates of mutation to function-altering alleles, then such mutations may make disproportionate contributions to phenotypic evolution. We report the discovery that a point mutation at a highly mutable site in the β-globin gene of Andean house wrens has produced a physiologically important change in the oxygenation properties of hemoglobin (Hb). The mutant allele that confers an increased Hb–O2 affinity is present at an unusually high frequency at high altitude. These findings suggest that site-specific variation in mutation rate may exert a strong influence on the genetic basis of phenotypic evolution."
http://www.pnas.o...07300112

@JVK

This is what real science looks like, not your delusional young earth creationism.
Vietvet
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 15, 2015
See also: http://phys.org/n...el.html#

"Nowhere in this conclusion do the authors say that these teeth belong to Homo sapiens. Nowhere do they say they have just doubled the age of our species. Nowhere do they say that our species evolved in the Near East, not in Africa."[2]

https://en.wikipe...sem_Cave
Vietvet
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 15, 2015
@24Volts

Recent African origin of modern humans
https://en.wikipe...n_humans

This link is a lot more comprehensive than a 1,000 character limit would allow.
PhotonX
4.4 / 5 (7) Oct 15, 2015
Vietvet quoted: "Nowhere in this conclusion do the authors say that these teeth belong to Homo sapiens." And Nature further makes this point. http://www.nature...700.html Some people see the word "human" and immediately think "homo sapiens", especially when that fits with predecided religious beliefs. Either way, 400,000 year old human teeth, whatever species they are, pretty much blows Young Earth Creationism right out of the water, doesn't it? And does nothing to weaken evolutionary theory.
.
.
bschott
1 / 5 (4) Oct 15, 2015
Vietvet quoted: "Nowhere in this conclusion do the authors say that these teeth belong to Homo sapiens." Some people see the word "human" and immediately think "homo sapiens"


LOL...now why would that be?

Either way, 400,000 year old human teeth, whatever species they are, pretty much blows Young Earth Creationism right out of the water, doesn't it?


Um...it was Vietvet who set up the straw man about young earth creationism, nothing JVK posted mentions this. His posts indicate belief in intelligent design and nutritional/hormonal drivers of evolution as linked in his peer reviewed study. They show no timetable regarding when we got here, just a scientifically accepted evolutionary trigger.
bschott
1 / 5 (4) Oct 15, 2015
And does nothing to weaken evolutionary theory.


Do you realize how many scientific findings weaken evolutionary theory? How many proposed leaps to new species make no scientific sense because evolution went in a direction that wasn't favored by environmental or nutritional drivers?

I am not questioning the fact the species evolve, that would be rediculous. It is just that claiming all life is a product of evolution from single celled organisms due to a requirement for complexity is against evolutionary principles. What is easier than ingesting nutrients through osmosis? What was the "evolutionary trigger" that made one cell decide that it needed to be two? Is 3.5 billion years long enough to go from these organisms to the brain stem, cerebral cortex and the optic nerve? How did evolution decide physical symmetry was a requirement? How and why leave the water, senses/physiology adapted to functioning underwater don't work outside it.
Vietvet
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 15, 2015


Um...it was Vietvet who set up the straw man about young earth creationism, nothing JVK posted mentions this. His posts indicate belief in intelligent design and nutritional/hormonal drivers of evolution as linked in his peer reviewed study. They show no timetable regarding when we got here, just a scientifically accepted evolutionary trigger.


You must not be aware of JVK's commenting history.
bschott
1 / 5 (4) Oct 15, 2015
You must not be aware of JVK's commenting history.


If I were, it wouldn't change the facts of the observation.
Drjsa_oba
1 / 5 (1) Oct 15, 2015
The results of this research are starting to get more realistic. It has been know for many years that Australia has fossil evidence of modern human population for more than 50,000 years. This could not be possible if modern humans did not leave Africa until 45,000 years ago. ergo modern humans left Africa sooner no matter what experts said.

Now we have fossil evidence from China that is similar we are starting to get real. modern human travelled through China to Australia.
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2015
If I were, it wouldn't change the facts of the observation.
@bs
it would if you were aware of his inability to correctly interpret links/studies and his intentional misrepresentations of actual science with religious dogma, like his continued claims that Lenski or Extavour et al are "biologically uninformed idiots" etc
Actual quotes from jk on that subject
all Mutations perturb protein folding
or
mutations are pathological
or
I've learned enough about physics to link the speed of light on contact with water to the de novo creation of amino acids
or
Can anyone confirm or deny the use of the letters of the Aramaic alphabet as indicators of the 20 amino acids and 2 stop codons that are the building blocks for the creation of all nutrient-dependent biodiversity on this planet?
(plus he linked creationist sites as "evidence" for his claims
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 16, 2015
@bs cont'd
one of the points of evolution is the inclusion of adaptation. this is a failing on jk's part (especially with reading and literacy)
https://en.wikipe...aptation

the theory of evolution includes adaptation
https://en.wikipe...Outcomes

this means jk's argument is already included in the theory, which is how science works because of the evidence
https://en.wikipe...cess.svg

there is some accuracy in jk's posts, however there is a lot of religious dogma as well: see
http://www.socioa...ew/24367

this is important as well
http://freethough...s-place/

evidence trumps argument from authority
validation trumps single studies (and Lenski has been validated)

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