The Vindija Neanderthal scapular glenoid fossa: comparative shape analysis suggests evo-devo changes among Neanderthals.
Although the shape of the scapular glenoid fossa (SGF) may be influenced by epigenetic and developmental factors, there appears to be strong genetic control over its overall form, such that variation within and between hominin taxa in SGF shape may contain information about their evolutionary histories. Here we present the results of a geometric morphometric study of the SGF of the Neanderthal Vi-209 from Vindjia Cave (Croatia), relative to samples of Plio-Pleistocene, later Pleistocene, and recent hominins. Variation in overall SGF shape follows a chronological trend from the plesiomorphic condition seen in Australopithecus to modern humans, with pre-modern species of the genus Homo exhibiting intermediate morphologies. Change in body size across this temporal series is not linearly directional, which argues against static allometry as an explanation. However, life history and developmental rates change directionally across the series, suggesting an ontogenetic effect on the observed changes in shape (ontogenetic allometry). Within this framework, the morphospace occupied by the Neanderthals exhibits a discontinuous distribution. The Vindija SGF and those of the later Near Eastern Neanderthals (Kebara and Shanidar) approach the modern condition and are somewhat segregated from both northwestern European (Neandertal and La Ferrassie) and early Mediterranean Neanderthals (Krapina and Tabun). Although more than one scenario may account for the pattern seen in the Neanderthals, the data is consistent with palaeogenetic evidence suggesting low levels of gene flow between Neanderthals and modern humans in the Near East after ca. 120-100 ka (thousands of years ago) (with subsequent introgression of modern human alleles into eastern and central Europe). Thus, in keeping with previous analyses that document some modern human features in the Vindija Neanderthals, the Vindija G(3) sample should not be seen as representative of 'classic'--that is, unadmixed, pre-contact--Neanderthal morphology.
Di Vincenzo, F; Churchill, SE; Manzi, G
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