Skulls reveal Neandertal’s hodge-podge genealogy

Fossil treasure trove shows nuances in hominid family tree

By Rachel Ehrenberg, 15:23 PM June 19, 2014

The Neandertal branch of the hominid family tree just got a lot more shrublike. Ancient skulls from a desolate Spanish cave have a hodge-podge of Neandertal and non-Neandertal features, suggesting the species underwent a long period of evolutionary fits and starts before emerging as full-fledged Neandertals some 200,000 years ago.

A battery of dating techniques indicates that the 17 skulls, seven of which were analyzed for the first time, are roughly 430,000 years old. The age means the fossil...

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