It's been a very busy week, and I find that I haven't updated much while a whirl of stuff is going on. A lot of the new stuff is "vapor-sci" -- news stories based on conference presentations, with no paper to look at. It will probably all come out before too long, but not always as initially advertised (YMMV).
The human brain may have evolved beyond that of our primate cousins because our brain cells are better at sticking in place, researchers say.
A new study comparing the genomes of humans, chimps, monkeys and mice found an unexpectedly high degree of genetic difference in the human DNA regions that influence nerve cell adhesion, compared with the DNA of the other animals.
Accelerated evolution here allowed human brain cell connections to form with greater complexity, enabling us to grow bigger brains, the researchers suggest.
And here's another:
From the enriched dataset, the researchers calculated that humans and Neanderthals diverged approximately 400,000 years ago. And the new data promise to reveal more about the genetic basis of differences between humans and Neanderthals - differences that presumably resulted in the success of modern humans as a species - the researchers say.
"This is a hint of exciting things to come as more Neanderthal sequence is produced," says David Haussler at the University of California, Santa Cruz, US.
The researchers say the findings strengthen the argument that Neanderthals did not contribute substantially to the modern human genome. "Were there Neanderthals in our lineage? All of the genetics seems to be going in the direction that there weren't," says Richard Potts, head of the Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program in Washington DC, US.
I think you might file this in the category of "famous last words." As long as we're talking about vapor-sci, you see, I have a little of my own...