Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Social conscience came early

19.09.2001


Toothless survival needed a helping hand.
© E. Trinkaus


New-found jawbone hints at 200 thousand years of care in the community.

Care for the elderly and disabled may have been around a lot longer than we thought. The discovery of a jawbone scarred by severe gum disease hints that a toothless early human got by with a little help from his friends.

Minus teeth, unable to chew his or her food, the owner of the deformed jawbone nonetheless survived "for at least several months," estimates anthropologist Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Chewing had worn the bone that had re-grown to fill the tooth sockets1.



"This individual was preferentially getting the soft bits [of food] or was getting help," says Trinkaus. His research team discovered the mandible in France.

This level of social awareness was thought to have originated about 50 thousand years ago among our thickset cousins the Neanderthals. The jawbone pushes the date for collaborative survival way back - about 175 and 200 thousand years ago.

"It suggests pre-Neanderthals had significant elements of fully human behaviour," says Chris Stringer an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum in London, UK. But it doesn’t tell us exactly when caring for other group members first evolved.

Until recently the social sophistication needed for group members to care one another was thought to have arisen with our direct ancestors, the early modern humans. Discoveries of elderly and diseased Neanderthals showed that they were looking out for each other around 50,000 years ago.

Markings on worn teeth from the same site suggest that pre-Neanderthals, like their Neanderthal descendants, were particularly dependent on their teeth for survival, using them to scrape off meat and crush bones. The lack of stone tools and other technology make it unlikely that a toothless individual could have processed food in any other way, says Trinkaus.

While sociable, there’s no evidence that our common ancestors, primates, care for sick or disabled members of their social groups. Studies indicate that they starve after losing their teeth, according to Trinkaus.


TOM CLARKE | nature

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein
24.01.2017 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

nachricht Choreographing the microRNA-target dance
24.01.2017 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>