Most palaeoanthropologists consider the robust australopithecines to be an offshoot of the gracile australopithecines and most are in agreement that the former deserve a separate genus – Paranthropus. This is currently up for debate because we now realise that there could be more to hominin evolution on the African continent than the fossil record is leading us to believe.
The theory that the last Neanderthals –Homo neanderthalensis– persisted in southern Iberia at the same time that modern humans –Homo sapiens– advanced in the northern part of the peninsula, has been widely accepted by the scientific community during the last twenty years.
Recent genetic studies suggest that Neanderthals may have bred with anatomically modern humans tens of thousands of years ago in the Middle East, contributing to the modern human gene pool. But the findings are not universally accepted, and the fossil record has not helped to clarify the role of interbreeding, which is also known as hybridization.
The search for the origin of modern human behaviour and technological advancement among our ancestors in southern Africa some 70 000 years ago, has taken a step closer to firmly establishing Africa, and especially South Africa, as the primary centre for the early development of human behaviour.
For researchers who study Earth’s past environment, disentangling the effects of climate change from those related to human activities is a major challenge, but now University of Massachusetts Amherst geoscientists have used a biomarker from human feces in a completely new way to establish the first human presence, the arrival of grazing animals and human population dynamics in a landscape.
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