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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Late Italian Neanderthal Hybrids

Mar 30

Possible Interbreeding in Late Italian Neanderthals? New Data from the
Mezzena Jaw (Monti Lessini, Verona, Italy)


In this article we examine the mandible of Riparo Mezzena a Middle
Paleolithic rockshelter in the Monti Lessini (NE Italy, Verona) found in
1957 in association with Charentian Mousterian lithic assemblages.
Mitochondrial DNA analysis performed on this jaw and on other cranial
fragments found at the same stratigraphic level has led to the
identification of the only genetically typed Neanderthal of the Italian
peninsula and has confirmed through direct dating that it belongs to a
late Neanderthal. Our aim here is to re-evaluate the taxonomic affinities
of the Mezzena mandible in a wide comparative framework using both
comparative morphology and geometric morphometrics. The comparative sample
includes mid-Pleistocene fossils, Neanderthals and anatomically modern
humans. This study of the Mezzena jaw shows that the chin region is
similar to that of other late Neanderthals which display a much more
modern morphology with an incipient mental trigone (e.g. Spy 1, La
Ferrassie, Saint-C�saire). In our view, this change in morphology among
late Neanderthals supports the hypothesis of anatomical change of late
Neanderthals and the hypothesis of a certain degree of interbreeding with
AMHs that, as the dating shows, was already present in the European
territory. Our observations on the chin of the Mezzena mandible lead us
to support a non abrupt phylogenetic transition for this period in Europe.


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