Herodotus Returns

Neanderthals interbred with humans
April 25, 2010, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Neanderthals, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

A recent study shows that Neanderthals and humans did, in fact, interbreed. There’s a little bit of Neanderthal in all of us, apparently. (Unless your family comes from Africa). The study will be put to the test soon, when the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology publishes their genome study. I wonder about the nature of these Neanderthal-human liaisons. Most anthropologists seem to believe that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens had some kind of conflict. Homo sapiens appeared in a part of the world where Neanderthals had reigned alone for a hundred thousand years. The two species eventually would  have been competing for resources; some form of conflict would have been inevitable. And remember Neanderthals were wiped out. Homo sapiens surely helped this process along. So, my unscientific hunch is that any Neanderthal-human interbreeding came in the rape-pillage aftermath ‘war.’

Archaic humans such as Neanderthals may be gone but they’re not forgotten — at least not in the human genome. A genetic analysis of nearly 2,000 people from around the world indicates that such extinct species interbred with the ancestors of modern humans twice, leaving their genes within the DNA of people today.

The discovery, presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 17 April, adds important new details to the evolutionary history of the human species. And it may help explain the fate of the Neanderthals, who vanished from the fossil record about 30,000 years ago. “It means Neanderthals didn’t completely disappear,” says Jeffrey Long, a genetic anthropologist at the University of New Mexico, whose group conducted the analysis. There is a little bit of Neanderthal leftover in almost all humans, he says.

The researchers arrived at that conclusion by studying genetic data from 1,983 individuals from 99 populations in Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Sarah Joyce, a doctoral student working with Long, analyzed 614 microsatellite positions, which are sections of the genome that can be used like fingerprints. She then created an evolutionary tree to explain the observed genetic variation in microsatellites. The best way to explain that variation was if there were two periods of interbreeding between humans and an archaic species, such as Homo neanderthalensis or H. heidelbergensis.

More on Neanderthal-human liaisons.


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[…] ago they were wearing makeup and jewelry. Next, the Neanderthal Genome Project told us that they were mating with Homo sapiens. Neanderthals inhabited the cozy Late Pleistocene room, located within Esquilleu Cave in Cantabria, […]

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