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Migration evolves Down Under.

Migration evolves Down Under

Some scientists hold that the genetic mixing of Neanderthals living in western Europe more than 40,000 years ago with early Homo sapiens migrating from the Near East produced the line of fully modern humans (SN: 2/27/88, p.138). But population migration is overrated as an agent of human evolutionary change, argues Milford H. Wolpoff of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In Wolpoff's view, the limited role of migration is apparent in the fossil record of another region on the periphery of human evolution: Australia.

"The origin of modern Australian aborigines can be traced to Indonesia," he says. "But [later] arrivals from Indonesia weren't more modern [anatomically]; they were more Asian."

The earliest Australian immigrants arrived about 50,000 years ago. Wolpoff maintains that the shape and thickness of the immigrants' skulls is comparable to that of Indonesian specimens dating to approximately 250,000 years ago, suggesting a genetic connection. By 10,000 years ago, after a long stretch of Indonesian migrations, Australians displayed flat noses and other cranial characteristics that largely resemble those of contemporary Indonesian and Chinese finds.

Wolpoff says the same effects of population migration have occurred in western Europe, where changes in climate and social organization may have had more influence on the development of anatomically modern humans than did the arrival of immigrants with Near Eastern features.

"The Australian model shows that migrating populations bring with them different anatomical features but not necessarily more modern fetures," Wolpoff concludes.
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Title Annotation:Australia
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 2, 1989
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