Last Week’s edition of Know Your Primate focussed on a Current Anthropology article by Erik Trinkaus. The paper asked whether Neanderthals or Anatomically Modern Humans were more derived. Science Daily has an article on it as well.
“I wanted to see to what extent Neandertals are derived, that is distinct, from the ancestral form. I also wanted to see the extent to which modern humans are derived relative to the ancestral form,” Trinkaus says. “What I came up with is that modern humans have about twice as many uniquely derived traits than do the Neandertals.
“In the broader sweep of human evolution,” says Trinkaus, “the more unusual group is not Neandertals, whom we tend to look at as strange, weird and unusual, but it’s us – Modern Humans.”
The most unusual characteristics throughout human anatomy occur in Modern Humans, argues Trinkaus. “If we want to better understand human evolution, we should be asking why Modern Humans are so unusual, not why the Neandertals are divergent. Modern Humans, for example, are the only people who lack brow ridges. We are the only ones who have seriously shortened faces. We are the only ones with very reduced internal nasal cavities. We also have a number of detailed features of the limb skeleton that are unique.”