Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Leipzig, Germany

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Leipzig, Germany

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology is a research institute based in Leipzig, Germany, founded in 1997. It is part of the Max Planck Society network.The institute comprises five departments and several Junior Scientist Groups, and currently employs about three hundred and thirty people.Well-known scientists currently based at the institute include Svante Pääbo , Bernard Comrie , Michael Tomasello , Christophe Boesch , and Jean-Jacques Hublin . Wikipedia.

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News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Remote motion-sensitive photography, or camera trapping, is revolutionizing surveys of wild animal populations. Camera trapping is an efficient means of detecting rare species, conducting species inventories and biodiversity assessments, estimating site occupancy, and observing behaviour. If individual animals can be identified from the images obtained, camera trapping data can also be used to estimate animal density and population size - information critical to effective wildlife management and conservation. For this reason, camera traps were initially popularized by researchers studying big cats and other species with distinctive coat markings. Since then, thousands of camera traps have been deployed in wildlife habitat across the globe, especially in tropical forest ecosystems where animals are difficult to survey by other means. However, methods for estimating abundances of species which cannot be individually identified are still in development, and none is generally accepted or broadly applied. Researchers from the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) recently extended distance sampling analytical methods to accommodate data from camera traps. "Distance sampling is a very well-established statistical framework for estimating animal density and population size that is already familiar to many ecologists", says Hjalmar Kühl of the MPI-EVA and iDiv. "This development will pave the way for researchers to estimate abundances of multiple species from camera trapping data collected over relatively short time intervals, without identifying individuals, and with minimal additional field work." Kühl adds: "This new approach can be easily integrated into our ongoing camera trap surveys across a broad range of habitats and species; we will also apply it in our monitoring work." The models are implemented in the free, Windows-based software Distance, and various packages of the statistics software R. Detailed documentation and advice from statisticians is also freely available via the Distance project website. Further testing and validation are recommended. Nevertheless, this development is an important addition to the set of analytical methods available to researchers conducting camera trap surveys. It can improve the quantity and quality of information about animal abundance and how it varies in space and time, facilitating effective conservation management. Stephen Buckland of the University of St. Andrews states: "Many animal populations are difficult to monitor effectively, but technological advances are opening up new strategies. The challenge for the statistician is to keep pace with the technological advances, and ensure that models are available to exploit fully the resulting data. This work is an important step in that direction." Eric Howe of the University of St. Andrews ads: "Given the current rates of species extinction and loss of biodiversity, I'm excited to be involved in research that has the potential to provide improved information to wildlife and conservation managers in a timely fashion." EH, SJ Howe EJ, Buckland ST, Després-Einspenner M-L, Kühl HS (2017): Distance sampling with camera traps. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, April 2017, DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12790


Still images captured from video recorded by a camera trap set in Taï National Park, Côte D'Ivoire, 2014. In the top image a researcher records reference videos showing measured horizontal distances from the camera lens. The bottom image shows a Maxwell's duiker detected at the same location. Credit: MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology Camera traps are a useful means for researchers to observe the behaviour of animal populations in the wild or to assess biodiversity levels of remote locations like the tropical rain forest. Researchers from the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research recently extended distance sampling analytical methods to accommodate data from camera traps. This new development allows abundances of multiple species to be estimated from camera trapping data collected over relatively short time intervals – information critical to effective wildlife management and conservation. Remote motion-sensitive photography, or camera trapping, is revolutionizing surveys of wild animal populations. Camera trapping is an efficient means of detecting rare species, conducting species inventories and biodiversity assessments, estimating site occupancy, and observing behaviour. If individual animals can be identified from the images obtained, camera trapping data can also be used to estimate animal density and population size – information critical to effective wildlife management and conservation. For this reason, camera traps were initially popularized by researchers studying big cats and other species with distinctive coat markings. Since then, thousands of camera traps have been deployed in wildlife habitat across the globe, especially in tropical forest ecosystems where animals are difficult to survey by other means. However, methods for estimating abundances of species which cannot be individually identified are still in development, and none is generally accepted or broadly applied. Researchers from the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) recently extended distance sampling analytical methods to accommodate data from camera traps. "Distance sampling is a very well-established statistical framework for estimating animal density and population size that is already familiar to many ecologists", says Hjalmar Kühl of the MPI-EVA and iDiv. "This development will pave the way for researchers to estimate abundances of multiple species from camera trapping data collected over relatively short time intervals, without identifying individuals, and with minimal additional field work." Kühl adds: "This new approach can be easily integrated into our ongoing camera trap surveys across a broad range of habitats and species; we will also apply it in our monitoring work." The models are implemented in the free, Windows-based software Distance, and various packages of the statistics software R. Detailed documentation and advice from statisticians is also freely available via the Distance project website. Further testing and validation are recommended. Nevertheless, this development is an important addition to the set of analytical methods available to researchers conducting camera trap surveys. It can improve the quantity and quality of information about animal abundance and how it varies in space and time, facilitating effective conservation management. Stephen Buckland of the University of St. Andrews states: "Many animal populations are difficult to monitor effectively, but technological advances are opening up new strategies. The challenge for the statistician is to keep pace with the technological advances, and ensure that models are available to exploit fully the resulting data. This work is an important step in that direction." Eric Howe of the University of St. Andrews ads: "Given the current rates of species extinction and loss of biodiversity, I'm excited to be involved in research that has the potential to provide improved information to wildlife and conservation managers in a timely fashion." Explore further: New population of endangered cats found in Borneo More information: Eric J. Howe et al. Distance sampling with camera traps, Methods in Ecology and Evolution (2017). DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12790


Enard W.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Current Opinion in Neurobiology | Year: 2011

Purpose of the review: A reduced dosage of the transcription factor FOXP2 leads to speech and language impairments probably owing to deficits in cortical and subcortical neural circuits. Based on evolutionary sequence analysis it has been proposed that the two amino acid substitutions that occurred on the human lineage have been positively selected. Here I review recent studies investigating the functional consequences of these two substitutions and discuss how these first endeavors to study human brain evolution can be interpreted in the context of speech and language evolution. Recent findings: Mice carrying the two substitutions in their endogenous Foxp2 gene show specific alterations in dopamine levels, striatal synaptic plasticity and neuronal morphology. Mice carrying only one functional Foxp2, show additional and partly opposite effects suggesting that FOXP2 has contributed to tuning cortico-basal ganglia circuits during human evolution. Evidence from human and songbird studies suggest that this could have been relevant during language acquisition or vocal learning, respectively. Summary: FOXP2 could have contributed to the evolution of human speech and language by adapting cortico-basal ganglia circuits. More generally the recent studies allow careful optimism that aspects of human brain evolution can be investigated in model systems such as the mouse. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.


Stoneking M.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Krause J.,University of Tübingen
Nature Reviews Genetics | Year: 2011

Genome-wide data, both from SNP arrays and from complete genome sequencing, are becoming increasingly abundant and are now even available from extinct hominins. These data are providing new insights into population history; in particular, when combined with model-based analytical approaches, genome-wide data allow direct testing of hypotheses about population history. For example, genome-wide data from both contemporary populations and extinct hominins strongly support a single dispersal of modern humans from Africa, followed by two archaic admixture events: one with Neanderthals somewhere outside Africa and a second with Denisovans that (so far) has only been detected in New Guinea. These new developments promise to reveal new stories about human population history, without having to resort to storytelling. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


Gansauge M.-T.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Meyer M.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Genome Research | Year: 2014

Contamination by present-day human and microbial DNA is one of the major hindrances for large-scale genomic studies using ancient biological material. We describe a new molecular method, U selection, which exploits one of the most distinctive features of ancient DNA-the presence of deoxyuracils-for selective enrichment of endogenous DNA against a complex background of contamination during DNA library preparation. By applying the method to Neanderthal DNA extracts that are heavily contaminated with present-day human DNA, we show that the fraction of useful sequence information increases ~10-fold and that the resulting sequences are more efficiently depleted of human contamination than when using purely computational approaches. Furthermore, we show that U selection can lead to a four- to fivefold increase in the proportion of endogenous DNA sequences relative to those of microbial contaminants in some samples. U selection may thus help to lower the costs for ancient genome sequencing of nonhuman samples also. © 2014 Totoki et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.


Hublin J.-J.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Quaternary Science Reviews | Year: 2015

Dating the timing of the replacement of local Neandertal populations by modern humans in western Eurasia at the dawn of the Upper Palaeolithic remains challenging due to the scarcity of the palaeontological evidence and to the complexity of the archaeological record. Furthermore, key specimens have been discovered in the course of excavations that unfortunately did not meet today's archaeological standards. The importance of site-formation processes in the considered time period makes it sometimes difficult to precisely assign fragmentary remains a posteriori to distinct techno-complexes. The improvements in dating methods have however allowed for the clarification of many chronological issues in the past decade. Archaeological and palaeontological evidence strongly suggest that the initial modern colonization of eastern Europe and central Asia should be related to the spread of techno-complexes assigned to the Initial Upper Palaeolithic. This first expansion may have started as early as 48 ka cal BP. The earliest phases of the Aurignacian complex (Protoaurignacian and Early Aurignacian) seem to represent another modern wave of migrations, starting in the Levant area. The expansion of this techno-complex throughout Europe completed the modern colonization of the continent. The interpretation of a third group of industries referred to as "transitional assemblages" in western and central Europe is much debated. At least in part, these assemblages might have been produced by Neandertal groups that may have survived until c. 41 ka cal BP, according to the directly dated Neandertal specimens of Saint-Césaire (France) and Spy (Belgium). © 2014 The Author.


Gansauge M.-T.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Meyer M.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Nature Protocols | Year: 2013

This protocol describes a method for converting short single-stranded and double-stranded DNA into libraries compatible with high-throughput sequencing using Illumina technology. This method has primarily been developed to improve sequence retrieval from ancient DNA, but it is also applicable to the sequencing of short or degraded DNA from other sources, and it can also be used for sequencing oligonucleotides. Single-stranded library preparation is performed by ligating a biotinylated adapter oligonucleotide to the 3′ ends of heat-denatured DNA. The resulting strands are then immobilized on streptavidin-coated beads and copied with a polymerase. A second adapter is attached by blunt-end ligation, and library preparation is completed by PCR amplification. We estimate that intact DNA strands are recovered in the library with ∼50% efficiency. Libraries can be generated from up to 12 DNA or oligonucleotide samples in parallel within 2 d. © 2013 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.


Hublin J.-J.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Current Biology | Year: 2014

The bushy nature of the human evolutionary tree in the past 3 million years is widely accepted. Yet, a spectacular new fossil of early Homo has prompted some paleoanthropologists to prune our family tree. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


Hartman G.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Functional Ecology | Year: 2011

1.Mammalian species from hot and arid environments often have elevated nitrogen isotope values compared to animals from similar trophic levels in more temperate climates. This pattern has most often been explained as the result of a physiological response by animals to heat and water stress. However, a positive correlation between rainfall and the δ 15N values of plants and herbivorous mammalian species suggests that diet may be responsible. 2.This study uses the horn keratin of desert-adapted bovids (Dorcas gazelle and Nubian ibex) to test whether the δ 15N values of herbivore body tissues are determined by heat and water stress or by the isotopic composition of their diet. The δ 15N values of horn keratin are compared against several climatic factors that affect heat and water stress to determine if a relationship exists. In addition, the range of δ 15N values measured in desert vegetation is used to evaluate the contribution of the diet to the isotopic values of bovid body tissue. 3.The δ 15N values of desert bovid horn keratin were correlated against individual climatic factors that induce water stress and were not found to be significant. When climatic factors were combined, a significant positive correlation was found between the δ 15N values of Dorcas gazelles and temperature, humidity, and rainfall. This observation contradicts the physiological stress hypothesis that predicts a negative correlation between rainfall and humidity and δ 15N values. Instead, this correlation is likely attributable to denitrification processes in the soil that directly affect the isotopic values of the plants. Values for δ 15N of horn keratin fall within the range predicted by discrimination between diet and consumer (Δ=4·1‰) which supports the diet hypothesis. 4.The results suggest that the isotopic composition of the diet is the dominant factor determining the δ 15N values of herbivore body tissue. © 2010 The Author. Functional Ecology © 2010 British Ecological Society.


Paabo S.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Cell | Year: 2014

Research into when and where modern humans originated and how they differ from, and interacted with, other now-extinct forms of human has so far been the realm of archaeologists and paleoanthropologists. However, over the past decade, molecular geneticists have begun to study genomes of extinct humans. Here, I discuss where we stand today with respect to understanding how modern humans came to differ from Neandertals and other human forms that existed until about 30,000 years ago. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.

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