Publications by authors named "Antonio García-Tabernero"

26 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Comparative anatomy and 3D geometric morphometrics of the El Sidrón atlases (C1).

J Hum Evol 2020 12 1;149:102897. Epub 2020 Nov 1.

Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), Department of Paleobiology, Paleoanthropology Group, J.G. Abascal 2, 28006, Madrid, Spain.

The first cervical vertebra (atlas, C1) is an important element of the vertebral column because it connects the cranial base with the cervical column, thus helping to maintain head posture and contributing to neck mobility. However, few atlases are preserved in the fossil record because of the fragility of this vertebra. Consequently, only eight well-preserved atlases from adult Neandertals have been recovered and described. Here, we present nine new atlas remains from the El Sidrón Neandertal site (Asturias, Spain), two of which (SD-1643 and SD-1605/1595) are sufficiently well preserved to allow for a detailed comparative and three-dimensional geometric morphometric analysis. We compared standard linear measurements of SD-1643 and SD-1605/1595 with those of other Neandertal atlases and carried out three-dimensional geometric morphometric analyses to compare size and shape of SD-1643 and SD-1605/1595 with those of 28 Pan (Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus), a broad comparative sample of 55 anatomically modern humans from African and European populations, and other fossil hominins (Neandertals, Homo antecessor, Paranthropus boisei). The El Sidrón atlas fossils show typical features of the Neandertal atlas morphology, such as caudal projection of the anterior tubercle, gracility of both the posterior tubercle and the tuberosity for the insertion of the transverse ligament, and an anteroposteriorly elongated neural canal. Furthermore, when compared with atlases from the other taxa, Neandertals exhibit species-specific features of atlas morphology including a relatively lower lateral mass height, relatively narrower transverse foramina, and flatter and more horizontally oriented articular facets. Some of these features fit with previous suggestions of shorter overall length of the cervical spine and potential differences in craniocervical posture and mobility. Our results may support a different spinopelvic alignment in this species, as the atlas morphology suggests reduced cervical lordosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2020.102897DOI Listing
December 2020

The study of the lower limb entheses in the Neanderthal sample from El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain): How much musculoskeletal variability did Neanderthals accumulate?

J Hum Evol 2020 04 9;141:102746. Epub 2020 Mar 9.

Group of Paleoanthropology MNCN-CSIC, Department of Paleobiology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, Madrid, Spain.

Entheses have rarely been systematically studied in the field of human evolution. However, the investigation of their morphological variability (e.g., robusticity) could provide new insight into their evolutionary significance in the European Neanderthal populations. The aim of this work is to study the entheses and joint features of the lower limbs of El Sidrón Neanderthals (Spain; 49 ka), using standardized scoring methods developed on modern samples. Paleobiology, growth, and development of both juveniles and adults from El Sidrón are studied and compared with those of Krapina Neanderthals (Croatia, 130 ka) and extant humans. The morphological patterns of the gluteus maximus and vastus intermedius entheses in El Sidrón, Krapina, and modern humans differ from one another. Both Neanderthal groups show a definite enthesis design for the gluteus maximus, with little intrapopulation variability with respect to modern humans, who are characterized by a wider range of morphological variability. The gluteus maximus enthesis in the El Sidrón sample shows the osseous features of fibrous entheses, as in modern humans, whereas the Krapina sample shows the aspects of fibrocartilaginous ones. The morphology and anatomical pattern of this enthesis has already been established during growth in all three human groups. One of two and three of five adult femurs from El Sidrón and from Krapina, respectively, show the imprint of the vastus intermedius, which is absent among juveniles from those Neanderthal samples and in modern samples. The scant intrapopulation and the high interpopulation variability in the two Neanderthal samples is likely due to a long-term history of small, isolated populations with high levels of inbreeding, who also lived in different ecological conditions. The comparison of different anatomical entheseal patterns (fibrous vs. fibrocartilaginous) in the Neanderthals and modern humans provides additional elements in the discussion of their functional and genetic origin.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2020.102746DOI Listing
April 2020

Analyses of the neandertal patellae from El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) with implications for the evolution of body form in Homo.

J Hum Evol 2020 04 5;141:102738. Epub 2020 Mar 5.

Group of Paleoanthropology MNCN-CSIC, Department of Paleobiology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, Madrid, Spain.

The evolution of the body form in Homo and its potential morphological connection to the arrangement of different skeletal systems is of major interest in human evolution. Patella morphology as part of the knee is potentially influenced by body form. Here, we describe for the first time the patellae remains recovered at El Sidrón Neandertal site and analyze them in a comparative evolutionary framework. We aim to clarify whether morphometric features frequently observed in Neandertal and modern human patellae are retained from a primitive anatomical arrangement or whether they represent derived features (apomorphies). For this purpose, we combine analyses of discrete features, classic anthropological measurements, and 3D geometric morphometrics based on generalized Procrustes analysis, mean size and shape comparisons, and principal components analysis. We found a size increment of the patella in hominin evolution, with large species showing a larger patella. Modern humans and Neandertals exhibit overall larger patellae, with maximum values observed in the latter, likely as a consequence of their broader body shape. Also, some Neandertals display a thicker patella, which has been linked to larger quadriceps muscles. However, Neandertals retain a primitive morphology in their patellar articular surfaces, with similar-sized lateral and medial articular facets, leading to a more symmetrical internal face. This feature is inherited from a primitive Homo ancestor and suggests a different configuration of the knee in Neandertals. Conversely, Homo sapiens exhibits an autoapomorphic patellar anatomy with expanded lateral articular facets. We propose that these distinct configurations of the patella within Homo may be a consequence of different body forms rather than specific functional adaptations of the knee. Thus, the slender body form of modern humans may entail a medial reorientation of the tibial tuberosity (patellar ligament), allowing lateral surface expansion. These anatomical evolutionary variations may involve subtle secondary differences in bipedalism within Homo.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.102738DOI Listing
April 2020

Primary visual cortex in neandertals as revealed from the occipital remains from the El Sidrón site, with emphasis on the new SD-2300 specimen.

J Anat 2018 07 6;233(1):33-45. Epub 2018 Apr 6.

Departamento de Paleobiología, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.

The comparative analysis of the endocranial surface of the El Sidrón new occipital fragment SD-2300 shows meaningful differences in the configuration of the occipital pole region between neandertals and anatomically modern humans (AMH). The particular asymmetries found in neandertals in the venous sinus drainage and the petalial patterns are recognizable in this new specimen as well. In addition, the supra- and infracalcarine fossae of the occipital pole region appear to deviate obliquely from the mid-line when compared with sapiens. Due to the excellent preservation conditions of SD-2300, the main sulci and gyri of the occipital pole area have been identified, this degree of detail being uncommon in a fossil specimen; in general, the gyrification pattern is similar to AMH, but with some notable differences. Particularly interesting is the description of the lunate and the calcarine sulci. The lunate sulcus is located close to the occipital pole, in a similar posterior position to in other Homo species. Regarding the calcarine sulcus, there are significant differences in the primary visual cortex, with the V1 area, or Brodmann area 17, being larger in Homo neanderthalensis than in Homo sapiens. This may lead to greater visual acuity in neandertals than in sapiens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joa.12812DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5987823PMC
July 2018

Response to Comment on "The growth pattern of Neandertals, reconstructed from a juvenile skeleton from El Sidrón (Spain)".

Science 2018 03;359(6380)

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK.

The comment by DeSilva challenges our suggestion that brain growth of the El Sidrón J1 Neandertal was still incomplete at 7.7 years of age. Evidence suggests that endocranial volume is likely to represent less than 90% adult size at El Sidrón as well as Neandertal male plus Krapina samples, in line with further evidence from endocranial surface histology and dural sinus groove size.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aar3820DOI Listing
March 2018

New Neandertal wrist bones from El Sidrón, Spain (1994-2009).

J Hum Evol 2018 01 31;114:45-75. Epub 2017 Oct 31.

Área de Prehistoria Departamento de Historia, Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain.

Twenty-nine carpal bones of Homo neanderthalensis have been recovered from the site of El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) during excavations between 1994 and 2009, alongside ∼2500 other Neandertal skeletal elements dated to ∼49,000 years ago. All bones of the wrist are represented, including adult scaphoids (n = 6), lunates (n = 2), triquetra (n = 4), pisiforms (n = 2), trapezia (n = 2), trapezoids (n = 5), capitates (n = 5), and hamates (n = 2), as well as one fragmentary and possibly juvenile scaphoid. Several of these carpals appear to belong to the complete right wrist of a single individual. Here we provide qualitative and quantitative morphological descriptions of these carpals, within a comparative context of other European and Near Eastern Neandertals, early and recent Homo sapiens, and other fossil hominins, including Homo antecessor, Homo naledi, and australopiths. Overall, the El Sidrón carpals show characteristics that typically distinguish Neandertals from H. sapiens, such as a relatively flat first metacarpal facet on the trapezium and a more laterally oriented second metacarpal facet on the capitate. However, there are some distinctive features of the El Sidrón carpals compared with most other Neandertals. For example, the tubercle of the trapezium is small with limited projection, while the scaphoid tubercle and hamate hamulus are among the largest seen in other Neandertals. Furthermore, three of the six adult scaphoids show a distinctive os-centrale portion, while another is a bipartite scaphoid with a truncated tubercle. The high frequency of rare carpal morphologies supports other evidence of a close genetic relationship among the Neandertals found at El Sidrón.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.09.007DOI Listing
January 2018

The growth pattern of Neandertals, reconstructed from a juvenile skeleton from El Sidrón (Spain).

Science 2017 09;357(6357):1282-1287

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.

Ontogenetic studies help us understand the processes of evolutionary change. Previous studies on Neandertals have focused mainly on dental development and inferred an accelerated pace of general growth. We report on a juvenile partial skeleton (El Sidrón J1) preserving cranio-dental and postcranial remains. We used dental histology to estimate the age at death to be 7.7 years. Maturation of most elements fell within the expected range of modern humans at this age. The exceptions were the atlas and mid-thoracic vertebrae, which remained at the 5- to 6-year stage of development. Furthermore, endocranial features suggest that brain growth was not yet completed. The vertebral maturation pattern and extended brain growth most likely reflect Neandertal physiology and ontogenetic energy constraints rather than any fundamental difference in the overall pace of growth in this extinct human.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aan6463DOI Listing
September 2017

The costal remains of the El Sidrón Neanderthal site (Asturias, northern Spain) and their importance for understanding Neanderthal thorax morphology.

J Hum Evol 2017 10 3;111:85-101. Epub 2017 Aug 3.

Paleoanthropology Group, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), J. G. Abascal 2, 28006, Madrid, Spain.

The study of the Neanderthal thorax has attracted the attention of the scientific community for more than a century. It is agreed that Neanderthals have a more capacious thorax than modern humans, but whether this was caused by a medio-lateral or an antero-posterior expansion of the thorax is still debated, and is key to understanding breathing biomechanics and body shape in Neanderthals. The fragile nature of ribs, the metameric structure of the thorax and difficulties in quantifying thorax morphology all contribute to uncertainty regarding precise aspects of Neanderthal thoracic shape. The El Sidrón site has yielded costal remains from the upper to the lower thorax, as well as several proximal rib ends (frequently missing in the Neanderthal record), which help to shed light on Neanderthal thorax shape. We compared the El Sidrón costal elements with ribs from recent modern humans as well as with fossil modern humans and other Neanderthals through traditional morphometric methods and 3D geometric morphometrics, combined with missing data estimation and virtual reconstruction (at the 1st, 5th and 11th costal levels). Our results show that Neanderthals have larger rib heads and articular tubercles than their modern human counterparts. Neanderthal 1st ribs are smaller than in modern humans, whereas 5th and 11th ribs are considerably larger. When we articulated mean ribs (size and shape) with their corresponding vertebral elements, we observed that compared to modern humans the Neanderthal thorax is medio-laterally expanded at every level, especially at T5 and T11. Therefore, in the light of evidence from the El Sidrón costal remains, we hypothesize that the volumetric expansion of the Neanderthal thorax proposed by previous authors would mainly be produced by a medio-lateral expansion of the thorax.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.06.003DOI Listing
October 2017

Neandertal talus bones from El Sidrón site (Asturias, Spain): A 3D geometric morphometrics analysis.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2017 10 17;164(2):394-415. Epub 2017 Jul 17.

Área de Prehistoria, Department of History, Universidad de Oviedo. Calle Teniente Alfonso Martínez s/n, Oviedo, 33011, Spain.

Objectives: The El Sidrón tali sample is assessed in an evolutionary framework. We aim to explore the relationship between Neandertal talus morphology and body size/shape. We test the hypothesis 1: talar Neandertal traits are influenced by body size, and the hypothesis 2: shape variables independent of body size correspond to inherited primitive features.

Materials And Methods: We quantify 35 landmarks through 3D geometric morphometrics techniques to describe H. neanderthalensis-H. sapiens shape variation, by Mean Shape Comparisons, Principal Component, Phenetic Clusters, Minimum spanning tree analyses and partial least square and regression of talus shape on body variables. Shape variation correlated to body size is compared to Neandertals-Modern Humans (MH) evolutionary shape variation. The Neandertal sample is compared to early hominins.

Results: Neandertal talus presents trochlear hypertrophy, a larger equality of trochlear rims, a shorter neck, a more expanded head, curvature and an anterior location of the medial malleolar facet, an expanded and projected lateral malleolar facet and laterally expanded posterior calcaneal facet compared to MH.

Discussion: The Neandertal talocrural joint morphology is influenced by body size. The other Neandertal talus traits do not co-vary with it or not follow the same co-variation pattern as MH. Besides, the trochlear hypertrophy, the trochlear rims equality and the short neck could be inherited primitive features; the medial malleolar facet morphology could be an inherited primitive feature or a secondarily primitive trait; and the calcaneal posterior facet would be an autapomorphic feature of the Neandertal lineage.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.23280DOI Listing
October 2017

Three-dimensional morphometrics of thoracic vertebrae in Neandertals and the fossil evidence from El Sidrón (Asturias, Northern Spain).

J Hum Evol 2017 07 5;108:47-61. Epub 2017 May 5.

Paleoanthropology Group, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), J. G. Abascal 2, 28006, Madrid, Spain.

Well preserved thoracic vertebrae of Neandertals are rare. However, such fossils are important as their three-dimensional (3D) spatial configuration can contribute to the understanding of the size and shape of the thoracic spine and the entire thorax. This is because the vertebral body and transverse processes provide the articulation and attachment sites for the ribs. Dorsal orientation of the transverse processes relative to the vertebral body also rotates the attached ribs in a way that could affect thorax width. Previous research indicates possible evidence for greater dorsal orientation of the transverse processes and small vertebral body heights in Neandertals, but their 3D vertebral structure has not yet been addressed. Here we present 15 new vertebral remains from the El Sidrón Neandertals (Asturias, Northern Spain) and used 3D geometric morphometrics to address the above issues by comparing two particularly well preserved El Sidrón remains (SD-1619, SD-1641) with thoracic vertebrae from other Neandertals and a sample of anatomically modern humans. Centroid sizes of El Sidrón vertebrae are within the human range. Neandertals have larger T1 and probably also T2. The El Sidrón vertebrae are similar in 3D shape to those of other Neandertals, which differ from Homo sapiens particularly in central-lower regions (T6-T10) of the thoracic spine. Differences include more dorsally and cranially oriented transverse processes, less caudally oriented spinous processes, and vertebral bodies that are anteroposteriorly and craniocaudally short. The results fit with current reconstructions of Neandertal thorax morphology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.03.008DOI Listing
July 2017

Adult Neandertal clavicles from the El Sidrón site (Asturias, Spain) in the context of Homo pectoral girdle evolution.

J Hum Evol 2016 06 3;95:55-67. Epub 2016 May 3.

Área de Prehistoria, Department of History, Universidad de Oviedo, Calle Teniente Alfonso Martínez s/n, 33011 Oviedo, Spain.

We undertook a three-dimensional geometric morphometric (3DGM) analysis on 12 new Neandertal clavicle specimens from the El Sidrón site (Spain), dated to 49,000 years ago. The 3DGM methods were applied in a comparative framework in order to improve our understanding of trait polarity in features related to Homo pectoral girdle evolution, using other Neandertals, Homo sapiens, Pan, ATD6-50 (Homo antecessor), and KNM-WT 15000 (Homo ergaster/erectus) in the reference collection. Twenty-nine homologous landmarks were measured for each clavicle. Variation and morphological similarities were assessed through principal component analysis, conducted separately for the complete clavicle and the diaphysis. On average, Neandertal clavicles had significantly larger muscular entheses, double dorsal curvature, clavicle torsion, and cranial orientation of the acromial end than non-Neandertal clavicles; the El Sidrón clavicles fit this pattern. Variation within the samples was large, with extensive overlap between Homo species; only chimpanzee specimens clearly differed from the other specimens in morphometric terms. Taken together, our morphometric analyses are consistent with the following phylogenetic sequence. The primitive condition of the clavicle is manifest in the cranial orientation of both the acromial and sternal ends. The derived condition expressed in the H. sapiens + Neandertal clade is defined by caudal rotation of both the sternal and acromial ends, but with variation in the number of acromia remaining in a certain cranial orientation. Finally, the autapomorphic Neandertal condition is defined by secondarily acquired primitive cranial re-orientation of the acromial end, which varies from individual to individual. These results suggest that the pace of phylogenetic change in the pectoral girdle does not seem to follow that of other postcranial skeletal features.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2016.03.005DOI Listing
June 2016

Possible Further Evidence of Low Genetic Diversity in the El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) Neandertal Group: Congenital Clefts of the Atlas.

PLoS One 2015 29;10(9):e0136550. Epub 2015 Sep 29.

Área de Prehistoria, Department of History, Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain.

We present here the first cases in Neandertals of congenital clefts of the arch of the atlas. Two atlases from El Sidrón, northern Spain, present respectively a defect of the posterior (frequency in extant modern human populations ranging from 0.73% to 3.84%), and anterior (frequency in extant modern human populations ranging from 0.087% to 0.1%) arch, a condition in most cases not associated with any clinical manifestation. The fact that two out of three observable atlases present a low frequency congenital condition, together with previously reported evidence of retained deciduous mandibular canine in two out of ten dentitions from El Sidrón, supports the previous observation based on genetic evidence that these Neandertals constituted a group with close genetic relations. Some have proposed for humans and other species that the presence of skeletal congenital conditions, although without clinical significance, could be used as a signal of endogamy or inbreeding. In the present case this interpretation would fit the general scenario of high incidence of rare conditions among Pleistocene humans and the specific scenariothat emerges from Neandertal paleogenetics, which points to long-term small and decreasing population size with reduced and isolated groups. Adverse environmental factors affecting early pregnancies would constitute an alternative, non-exclusive, explanation for a high incidence of congenital conditions. Further support or rejection of these interpretations will come from new genetic and skeletal evidence from Neandertal remains.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0136550PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4587856PMC
June 2016

A geometric morphometrics comparative analysis of Neandertal humeri (epiphyses-fused) from the El Sidrón cave site (Asturias, Spain).

J Hum Evol 2015 May 24;82:51-66. Epub 2015 Mar 24.

Área de Prehistoria, Department of History, Universidad de Oviedo, Calle Teniente Alfonso Martínez s/n, 33011 Oviedo, Spain.

A new collection of 49,000 year old Neandertal fossil humeri from the El Sidrón cave site (Asturias, Spain) is presented. A total of 49 humeral remains were recovered, representing 10 left and 8 right humeri from adults, adolescents, and a juvenile (not included in the analyses). 3D geometric morphometric (GM) methods as well as classic anthropological variables were employed to conduct a broad comparative analysis by means of mean centroid size and shape comparisons, principal components analysis, and cluster studies. Due to the fragmentary nature of the fossils, comparisons were organized in independent analyses according to different humeral portions: distal epiphysis, diaphysis, proximal epiphysis, and the complete humerus. From a multivariate viewpoint, 3D-GM analyses revealed major differences among taxonomic groups, supporting the value of the humerus in systematic classification. Notably, the Australopithecus anamensis (KP-271) and Homo ergaster Nariokotome (KNM-WT 15000) distal humerus consistently clusters close to those of modern humans, which may imply a primitive condition for Homo sapiens morphology. Australopithecus specimens show a high degree of dispersion in the morphospace. The El Sidrón sample perfectly fits into the classic Neandertal pattern, previously described as having a relatively wide olecranon fossa, as well as thin lateral and medial distodorsal pillars. These characteristics were also typical of the Sima de los Huesos (Atapuerca) sample, African mid-Pleistocene Bodo specimen, and Lower Pleistocene TD6-Atapuerca remains and may be considered as a derived state. Finally, we hypothesize that most of the features thought to be different between Neandertals and modern humans might be associated with structural differences in the pectoral girdle and shoulder joint.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.02.018DOI Listing
May 2015

The relevance of the first ribs of the El Sidrón site (Asturias, Spain) for the understanding of the Neandertal thorax.

J Hum Evol 2015 Mar 3;80:64-73. Epub 2015 Jan 3.

Paleoanthropology Group, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), J. G. Abascal 2, 28006, Madrid, Spain.

Reconstructing the morphology of the Neanderthal rib cage not only provides information about the general evolution of human body shape but also aids understanding of functional anatomy and energetics. Despite this paleobiological importance there is still debate about the nature and extent of variations in the size and shape of the Neandertal thorax. The El Sidrón Neandertals can be used to contribute to this debate, providing new costal remains ranging from fully preserved and undistorted ribs to highly fragmented elements. Six first ribs are particularly well preserved and offer the opportunity to analyze thorax morphology in Neandertals. The aims of this paper are to present this new material, to compare the ontogenetic trajectories of the first ribs between Neandertals and modern humans, and, using geometric morphometrics, to test the hypothesis of morphological integration between the first rib and overall thorax morphology. The first ribs of the El Sidrón adult Neandertals are smaller in centroid size and tend to be less curved when compared with those of modern humans, but are similar to Kebara 2. Our results further show that the straightening of the first ribs is significantly correlated with a straightening of the ribs of the upper thorax (R = 0.66; p < 0.0001) in modern humans, suggesting modularity in the upper and lower thorax units as reported in other hominins. It also supports the hypothesis that the upper thorax of Neandertals differs in shape from modern humans with more anteriorly projecting upper ribs during inspiration. These differences could have biomechanical consequences and account for stronger muscle attachments in Neandertals. Different upper thorax shape would also imply a different spatial arrangement of the shoulder girdle and articulation with the humerus (torsion) and its connection to the upper thorax. Future research should address these inferences in the context of Neandertal overall body morphology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.10.008DOI Listing
March 2015

Age and date for early arrival of the Acheulian in Europe (Barranc de la Boella, la Canonja, Spain).

PLoS One 2014 30;9(7):e103634. Epub 2014 Jul 30.

Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), Tarragona, Spain; Àrea de Prehistòria, Departament d'Història i Història de l'Art, Facultat de Lletres. Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), Tarragona, Spain; Visiting professor, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of Beijing (IVPP), Beijing, China; Unit associated to Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Departamento de Paleobiología. Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN), Madrid, Spain.

The first arrivals of hominin populations into Eurasia during the Early Pleistocene are currently considered to have occurred as short and poorly dated biological dispersions. Questions as to the tempo and mode of these early prehistoric settlements have given rise to debates concerning the taxonomic significance of the lithic assemblages, as trace fossils, and the geographical distribution of the technological traditions found in the Lower Palaeolithic record. Here, we report on the Barranc de la Boella site which has yielded a lithic assemblage dating to ∼1 million years ago that includes large cutting tools (LCT). We argue that distinct technological traditions coexisted in the Iberian archaeological repertoires of the late Early Pleistocene age in a similar way to the earliest sub-Saharan African artefact assemblages. These differences between stone tool assemblages may be attributed to the different chronologies of hominin dispersal events. The archaeological record of Barranc de la Boella completes the geographical distribution of LCT assemblages across southern Eurasia during the EMPT (Early-Middle Pleistocene Transition, circa 942 to 641 kyr). Up to now, chronology of the earliest European LCT assemblages is based on the abundant Palaeolithic record found in terrace river sequences which have been dated to the end of the EMPT and later. However, the findings at Barranc de la Boella suggest that early LCT lithic assemblages appeared in the SW of Europe during earlier hominin dispersal episodes before the definitive colonization of temperate Eurasia took place.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0103634PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116235PMC
November 2015

Temporal lobe sulcal pattern and the bony impressions in the middle cranial fossa: the case of the el Sidrón (Spain) neandertal sample.

Anat Rec (Hoboken) 2014 Dec 19;297(12):2331-41. Epub 2014 Jun 19.

Department of Paleobiology, Paleoanthropology Group MNCN-CSIC, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales-CSIC, Calle José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006, Madrid, Spain.

Correspondence between temporal lobe sulcal pattern and bony impressions on the middle cranial fossae (MCF) was analyzed. MCF bone remains (SD-359, SD-315, and SD-1219) from the El Sidrón (Spain) neandertal site are analyzed in this context. Direct comparison of the soft and hard tissues from the same individual was studied by means of: 1) dissection of two human heads; 2) optic (white light) surface scans; 3) computed tomography and magnetic resonance of the same head. The inferior temporal sulcus and gyrus are the features most strongly influencing MCF bone surface. The Superior temporal sulcus and middle temporal and fusiform gyri also leave imprints. Temporal lobe form differs between Homo sapiens and neandertals. A wider and larger post-arcuate fossa (posterior limit of Brodmann area 20 and the anterior portion of area 37) is present in modern humans as compared to neandertals. However other traits of the MCF surface are similar in these two large-brained human groups. A conspicuous variation is appreciated in the more vertical location of the inferior temporal gyrus in H. sapiens. In parallel, structures of the lower surface of the temporal lobe are more sagittally orientated. Grooves accommodating the fusiform and the lower temporal sulci become grossly parallel to the temporal squama. These differences can be understood within the context of a supero-lateral deployment of the lobe in H. sapiens, a pattern previously identified (Bastir et al., Nat Commun 2 (2011) 588-595). Regarding dural sinus pattern, a higher incidence of petrosquamous sinus is detected in neandertal samples.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ar.22957DOI Listing
December 2014

Neanderthal medics? Evidence for food, cooking, and medicinal plants entrapped in dental calculus.

Naturwissenschaften 2012 Aug 18;99(8):617-26. Epub 2012 Jul 18.

ICREA at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Neanderthals disappeared sometime between 30,000 and 24,000 years ago. Until recently, Neanderthals were understood to have been predominantly meat-eaters; however, a growing body of evidence suggests their diet also included plants. We present the results of a study, in which sequential thermal desorption-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) and pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) were combined with morphological analysis of plant microfossils, to identify material entrapped in dental calculus from five Neanderthal individuals from the north Spanish site of El Sidrón. Our results provide the first molecular evidence for inhalation of wood-fire smoke and bitumen or oil shale and ingestion of a range of cooked plant foods. We also offer the first evidence for the use of medicinal plants by a Neanderthal individual. The varied use of plants that we have identified suggests that the Neanderthal occupants of El Sidrón had a sophisticated knowledge of their natural surroundings which included the ability to select and use certain plants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00114-012-0942-0DOI Listing
August 2012

Paleoneurology of two new neandertal occipitals from El Sidrón (asturias, Spain) in the context of homo endocranial evolution.

Anat Rec (Hoboken) 2011 Aug 28;294(8):1370-81. Epub 2011 Jun 28.

Departamento de Anatomía y Embriología Humana I, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.

The endocranial surface description and comparative analyses of two new neandertal occipital fragments (labelled SD-1149 and SD-370a) from the El Sidrón site (Asturias, Spain) reveal new aspects of neandertal brain morphological asymmetries. The dural sinus drainage pattern, as observed on the sagittal-transverse system, as well as the cerebral occipito-petalias, point out a slightly differential configuration of the neandertal brain when compared to other Homo species, especially H. sapiens. The neandertal dural sinus drainage pattern is organized in a more asymmetric mode, in such a way that the superior sagittal sinus (SSS) drains either to the right or to the left transverse sinuses, but in no case in a confluent mode (i.e. simultaneous continuation of SSS with both right (RTS) and left (LTS) transverse sinuses). Besides, the superior sagittal sinus shows an accentuated deviation from of the mid-sagittal plane in its way to the RTS in 35% of neandertals. This condition, which increases the asymmetry of the system, is almost nonexistent neither in the analyzed Homo fossil species sample nor in that of anatomically modern humans. Regarding the cerebral occipito-petalias, neandertals manifest one of the lowest percentages of left petalia of the Homo sample (including modern H. sapiens). As left occipito-petalia is the predominant pattern in hominins, it seems as if neandertals would have developed a different pattern of brain hemispheres asymmetry. Finally, the relief and position of the the cerebral sulci and gyri impressions observed in the El Sidrón occipital specimens look similar to those observed in modern H. sapiens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ar.21427DOI Listing
August 2011

Genetic evidence for patrilocal mating behavior among Neandertal groups.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2011 Jan 20;108(1):250-3. Epub 2010 Dec 20.

Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas-Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 08003 Barcelona, Spain.

The remains of 12 Neandertal individuals have been found at the El Sidrón site (Asturias, Spain), consisting of six adults, three adolescents, two juveniles, and one infant. Archaeological, paleontological, and geological evidence indicates that these individuals represent all or part of a contemporaneous social group of Neandertals, who died at around the same time and later were buried together as a result of a collapse of an underground karst. We sequenced phylogenetically informative positions of mtDNA hypervariable regions 1 and 2 from each of the remains. Our results show that the 12 individuals stem from three different maternal lineages, accounting for seven, four, and one individual(s), respectively. Using a Y-chromosome assay to confirm the morphological determination of sex for each individual, we found that, although the three adult males carried the same mtDNA lineage, each of the three adult females carried different mtDNA lineages. These findings provide evidence to indicate that Neandertal groups not only were small and characterized by low genetic diversity but also were likely to have practiced patrilocal mating behavior.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1011553108DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017130PMC
January 2011

Brief communication: Subvertical grooves on interproximal wear facets from the El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) Neandertal dental sample.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2011 Jan;144(1):154-61

PaleoAnthropology Group, Department of Paleobiology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, Calle José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, Madrid, Spain.

The distribution of subvertical grooves on interproximal wear dental facets from the El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) Neandertals is described and analyzed. Out of 93 teeth, 64.5% present subvertical grooves, including a high frequency (50%) on the anterior dentition. Contrary to some studies, subvertical grooves from adjacent facets perfectly overlap each other and do not interdigitate, probably forming small channels. Both the facet and the groove surface share the same polished appearance, suggesting a common origin. Statistical analyses reveal that the number of grooves is neither dependent on the degree of occlusal wear, nor on the position on the tooth or the individual's age. However, facet width is an important factor determining the number of subvertical grooves. The etiology of subvertical grooves formation on Neandertal teeth remains unclear.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.21359DOI Listing
January 2011

Comparative morphology and morphometric assessment of the Neandertal occipital remains from the El Sidrón site (Asturias, Spain: years 2000-2008).

J Hum Evol 2010 Jan;58(1):68-78

PaleoAnthropology Group, Department of Paleobiology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), C/José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain.

This paper analyses the occipital remains recovered from the El Sidrón (Asturias, Spain) Neandertal site between the years of 2000-2008. The sample is represented by three specimens, SD-1219, SD-1149, and SD-370a. Descriptive morphology, linear measurements, 3D geometric morphometrics, and virtual anthropological methods were employed to address the morphological, morphometric, and phylogenetic affinities of these fossils. The fossils display Neandertal autapomorphies (e.g., bilaterally protruding transverse occipital torus, suprainiac fossa). SD-1219 also preserves a strongly projecting juxtamastoid eminence and shows occipital bunning. In linear distances, the El Sidrón occipitals are similar to each other and close to the Neandertal mean. The centroid size of SD-1219 is slightly larger than the Neandertal average. All of the evidence taken together points to the hypothesis that SD-1219 belongs to a smaller Neandertal male. Linear measurements and the vault thickness of SD-1149 also suggest a robust male individual. The gracility of SD-370a points towards an immature individual. Virtual anthropological methods were used to reconstruct a 3D model of the SD-1219 occipital for geometric morphometrics, which reveals that SD-1219 shows relatively broad and low occipital plane proportions. Within the European Pleistocene lineage sample, this fossil falls geometrically closer to primitive rather than to derived morphologies because of its increased width, and a lower, anterior position of inion relative to the biasterionic axis. These results may imply that cranial sphericity could be an important feature of intraspecific Neandertal variability. Our findings open the way for further studies of intraspecific variation in Neandertal populations, in which the El Sidrón sample may play a significant role.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.08.006DOI Listing
January 2010

Excavation protocol of bone remains for Neandertal DNA analysis in El Sidrón Cave (Asturias, Spain).

J Hum Evol 2008 Aug 16;55(2):353-7. Epub 2008 May 16.

Area de Prehistoria, Departamento de Historia, Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.03.005DOI Listing
August 2008

Endocranial occipito-temporal anatomy of SD-1219 from the Neandertal El Sidrón Site (Asturias, Spain).

Anat Rec (Hoboken) 2008 May;291(5):502-12

Departamento de Paleobiología, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales , Calle José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, Madrid, Spain.

We addressed the brain drainage system as inferred by the endocranial morphology of the occipito-temporal region of the El Sidrón Neandertal specimen SD-1219. Morphological details of the endocranial surface and its anatomical implications were analyzed for the reconstruction of the dural sinus drainage pattern and its comparison with Neandertals and other hominids. The specimen SD-1219 shows a pattern in which the superior sagittal sinus goes into the right transverse sinus. Comparative analyses with a large sample of fossil hominids reveal a pattern of the SD-1219 fossil that is typical for Neandertals. The analysis of the proportions of the occipital lobes prints within the occipital fossae reveals that the left occipital pole projects toward the right. This possibly indicates brain asymmetry (petalia) in this Neandertal individual, similar to that observed in some modern human brains. Conversely, no such asymmetry was observed in the cerebellar fossae. A particular feature of this fossil is the presence of two crests, located at the middle of the left cerebellar fossa that can be related to either an imprinting of a cerebellar fissure or some bone response to mechanical influence on internal bone surface morphology during cerebellar development. Specific aspects of the paleoneurology of Neandertals are discussed. Further quantitative studies on the endocranial morphology of the occipito-temporal and -mastoid region will shed light on the paleoneurological significance of this important anatomical region for the understanding of human evolution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ar.20684DOI Listing
May 2008

Dental tissue proportions and enamel thickness in Neandertal and modern human molars.

J Hum Evol 2008 Jul 5;55(1):12-23. Epub 2008 Mar 5.

Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.

The thickness of dental enamel is often discussed in paleoanthropological literature, particularly with regard to differences in growth, health, and diet between Neandertals and modern humans. Paleoanthropologists employ enamel thickness in paleodietary and taxonomic studies regarding earlier hominins, but variation in enamel thickness within the genus Homo has not been thoroughly explored despite its potential to discriminate species and its relevance to studies of growth and development. Radiographic two-dimensional studies indicate that Neandertal molar enamel is thin relative to the thick enamel of modern humans, although such methods have limited accuracy. Here we show that, measured via accurate high-resolution microtomographic imaging, Neandertal molar enamel is absolutely and relatively thinner than modern human enamel at most molar positions. However, this difference relates to the ratio of coronal dentine volume to total crown volume, rather than the quantity of enamel per se. The absolute volume of Neandertal molar enamel is similar to that of modern humans, but Neandertal enamel is deposited over a larger volume of coronal dentine, resulting in lower average (and relative) enamel thickness values. Sample sizes do not permit rigorous intragroup comparisons, but Neandertal molar tissue proportions evince less variation than the modern human sample. Differences in three- and two-dimensional enamel thickness data describing Neandertal molars may be explained by dimensional reduction. Although molar tissue proportions distinguish Neanderthals from recent Homo sapiens, additional study is necessary to assess trends in tissue proportions in the genus Homo throughout the Pleistocene.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.11.004DOI Listing
July 2008

Paleobiology and comparative morphology of a late Neandertal sample from El Sidron, Asturias, Spain.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2006 Dec 12;103(51):19266-71. Epub 2006 Dec 12.

Departamento de Paleobiología, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Calle José Gutierrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain.

Fossil evidence from the Iberian Peninsula is essential for understanding Neandertal evolution and history. Since 2000, a new sample approximately 43,000 years old has been systematically recovered at the El Sidrón cave site (Asturias, Spain). Human remains almost exclusively compose the bone assemblage. All of the skeletal parts are preserved, and there is a moderate occurrence of Middle Paleolithic stone tools. A minimum number of eight individuals are represented, and ancient mtDNA has been extracted from dental and osteological remains. Paleobiology of the El Sidrón archaic humans fits the pattern found in other Neandertal samples: a high incidence of dental hypoplasia and interproximal grooves, yet no traumatic lesions are present. Moreover, unambiguous evidence of human-induced modifications has been found on the human remains. Morphologically, the El Sidrón humans show a large number of Neandertal lineage-derived features even though certain traits place the sample at the limits of Neandertal variation. Integrating the El Sidrón human mandibles into the larger Neandertal sample reveals a north-south geographic patterning, with southern Neandertals showing broader faces with increased lower facial heights. The large El Sidrón sample therefore augments the European evolutionary lineage fossil record and supports ecogeographical variability across Neandertal populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0609662104DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1748215PMC
December 2006