The settlement of Europe could be the result of several immigration waves by a single population

The settlement of Europe could be the result of several immigration waves by a single population

The CENIEH conducts the morphological and metric analysis of the lower molars in the mandible from Montmaurin-La Niche (France) using micro-computed tomography, to study the origin of the Neanderthals.
settlement Europe immigration population
Montmaurin-La Niche mandible/M. Martínez de Pinillos

The Dental Anthropology Group of the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), in collaboration with the paleoanthropologist Amélie Vialet of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) in Paris, has just published a detailed external and internal study of the molars in the mandible from the French site of Montmaurin-La Niche in the Journal of Human Evolution, whose results strengthen the hypothesis that the settlement of Europe could have been the result of several waves of migration at different times by a common source population.

The aim in this paper, led by the researchers Marina Martínez de Pinillos (CENIEH) and Laura Martín-Francés (CENIEH and PACEA-University of Bordeaux), is to shed light on the origin of the Neanderthals. The latest data obtained from paleontological and geomorphological studies place the Montmaurin-La Niche mandible in a chronologically intermediate position between the fossils of the Middle Pleistocene and the Neanderthals.

The micro-computed axial tomography (microCT) technique has enabled the molars in this mandible to be compared with the external and internal structures of over 400 other molars from the European, Asian and African Pleistocene and Holocene.

This exhaustive metric and morphological analysis has revealed that, while the mandible is more closely related to African and Eurasian populations from the Early and Middle Pleistocene, the enamel and dentine morphology and pulp cavity proportions are similar to those in Neanderthals. “Nevertheless, the absolute and relative enamel thickness values (2D and 3D) show greater affinity with those exhibited by certain Early Pleistocene hominins”, says Martínez de Pinillos.

Possible hybridization

Over recent decades, finds of human fossil remains from the European Middle Pleistocene have prompted the debate on the evolutionary scenario of the genus Homo on that continent to be reopened. “The great variability we find among the European Middle Pleistocene fossils cannot be ignored in studying human evolution on our continent”, states Martín-Francés.

This variability in European Middle Pleistocene populations could indicate different migrations at different times and/or fragmentation of the population, thought it might also be due to possible hybridization between residents and new settlers.

Montmaurin-La Niche mandible/M. Martínez de Pinillos

Full bibliographic information

Martínez de Pinillos, M., Martín-Francés, L., Bermúdez de Castro, J. M., García-Campos, C., Modesto-Mata, M., Martinón-Torres, M., & Vialet, A. (2020). Inner morphological and metric characterization of the molar remains from the Montmaurin-La Niche mandible: the Neanderthal signal. Journal of Human Evolution, 145, 102739. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.102739.
Press release on the settlement of Europe due to immigration waves from a common source population from CENIEH

Two new extinct primate species are found in the Ethiopia site of Gona

Two new extinct primate species are found in the Ethiopia site of Gona

Sileshi Semaw from CENIEH participated in a study about large series of fossil cercopithecid primates named Pliopapio alemui and Kuseracolobus aramisi, two different species dated between 4.8 and 4.3 million years ago
Gona primate Pliopapio alemui and Kuseracolobus aramisi
Maxillae of Kuseracolobus aramisi from Gona

Sileshi Semaw from the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), is coauthor of a paper published in the Journal of Human Evolution about a large series of fossil cercopithecid primates named Pliopapio alemui and Kuseracolobus aramisi, two different new primate species dated between 4.8 and 4.3 million years ago known only from Gona and the Middle Awash study area in Ethiopia.

Mandibles of Kuseracolobus aramisi from Gona

The fossil discoveries include upper jaws, mandibles and postcrania found from deposits that also yielded Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominin species first identified in the Middle Awash study area located to the south of Gona. Based on abundance of various animal species, including monkeys, the ancient environment in which Ardipithecus ramidus lived was argued to be in a closed habitat with forests.

In addition to providing important information on the biological evolution of monkeys, these fossil discoveries provide critical information about the ancient environment in which Ardipithecus ramidus lived. Remarkably, differences in relative abundance of these fossil monkeys showed that at Gona Ardipithecus ramidus lived in open wooded habitats, which is different from the closed forested habitat documented in the Middle Awash.

“Therefore, our study shows environmental differences in the areas inhabited by Ardipithecus ramidus, one of the earliest hominins that lived at Gona and in the Middle Awash 4.5 million years ago,” says Sileshi Semaw.

A site of Ardipithecus

Gona is one of the two palaeoanthropological sites in Africa where the hominin species known as Ardipithecus ramidus) has been discovered. Ardipithecus ramidus is among the earliest bipedal hominin species (walking on two feet) that lived in East Africa. Only two other hominin species known as Ardipithecus kaddaba (dated to 6.0 million years ago) and Sahelanthropus tchadensis (from Tchad in Central Africa dated to 7.0 million years ago) are older than Ardipithecus ramidus. Also Ardipithecus kadabba, dated to more than 6.0 million years ago, has also been discovered at Gona.

Full bibliographic information

Frost, S. R., Simpson, S. W., Levin, N. E., Quade, J., Rogers, M. J., & Semaw, S. (2020). Fossil Cercopithecidae from the Early Pliocene Sagantole formation at Gona, Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution, 144, 102789. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2020.102789.
Press release from CENIEH