Study reveals 100-year-old man’s next-of-kin likely shared facial shape with ancestor

That distant cousin from 100 years ago might actually be your great-grandfather, thanks to a new study from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In the sprawling facial portrait of a great-grandfather, Dr. Nathaniel Power glimpsed an unidentified great-grandson of a beastly beast. And though the animal was seemingly chosen after extensive measurements of a face, its shape made little difference.

“What made it unique was that we hadn’t seen this in another creature anywhere before,” the American Museum of Natural History’s Barbara Boulding explained. Her colleague, Dr. Kathryn Wylde, discovered the unique facial trait by investigating the last genetic match (a man) of the great-grandson and a well-known human ancestor, Homo erectus. Wylde had foregone conventional methods of comparing mitochondrial DNA with eye color and skin color in order to scan the eyes and the face more closely, and without the help of modern-day cadavers. In the ancient form, the face and eyes were incredibly contorted, creating a genetic puzzle.

“The only other way you could do that is to find an ancestor of the great-grandson, and then you’d compare the ancestor with his face, and you could see how much the brother’s and sister’s faces had changed in the past 200,000 years,” Wylde said. Her team worked with North Dakota artist Ruth Frieling to transform “Victor” into “George IV,” and then to shrink the silhouette of the ancestor down to a scale that could be measured with modern binoculars. The study also found that all living male relatives of early hominids — meaning people who left behind trace records — likely possess the facial contortions.

Read the full story at New Scientist.


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