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Scientific American

Our Neandertal Brethren

published August 2010 | comments (58)
Genome sequencing has revealed our common humanity
magazine cover

According to the late Harvard University biologist Ernst W. Mayr, the greatest evolutionary theorist since Charles Darwin, “species are groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations which are reproductively isolated from other such groups.”

Reproductive isolation is the key to understanding how new species form, and many types of barriers can divide a population and split it into two different groups: geographic (such as a mountain range, desert, ocean or river), morphological (a change in coloration, body type or reproductive organs), behavioral (a change in breeding season, mating calls or courtship actions), and others. After isolation, if members of the split populations encounter one another and cannot produce viable offspring that can themselves later successfully interbreed and produce viable offspring (hybrids such as mules are infertile), then these two populations constitute two different species.

Let’s say that a species migrates out of Africa into Europe around 400,000 years ago and becomes reproductively isolated from its ancestral population for the next 320,000 years. It evolves distinctive anatomical features and adaptations for the colder climes. Moreover, even after other descendants of the original ancestral population move into Europe around 80,000 years ago, the skeletons from both groups show no obvious signs of blended characteristics. Modern scientists classify the creatures as two different species.

Then, however, genetic analysis reveals that members of these two species interbred and produced viable offspring that populated Europe and spread eastward as far as China and Papua New Guinea. By Mayr’s definition, these two interbreeding populations are not two species after all, but two sibling subspecies of the original African species. A subspecies has a characteristic appearance and geographic range, Mayr explains, yet he adds this significant qualifier: “It is a unit of convenience for the taxonomist, but not a unit of evolution.”

Thus it is — revealing the identity of my example — that we must reclassify Homo neanderthalensis as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, a subspecies of Homo sapiens. A comprehensive and technically sophisticated study published in the May 7 issue of Science, “A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome,” by Max Planck Institute evolutionary anthropologists Richard E. Green, Svante Pääbo and 54 of their colleagues, demonstrates that “between 1 and 4% of the genomes of people in Eurasia are derived from Neandertals” and that “Neandertals are on average closer to individuals in Eurasia than to individuals in Africa.” In fact, the authors note, “a striking observation is that Neandertals are as closely related to a Chinese and Papuan individual as to a French individual…. Thus, the gene flow between Neandertals and modern humans that we detect most likely occurred before the divergence of Europeans, East Asians, and Papuans.” In other words, our anatomically hirsute cousins are actually our genetic brothers.

This modified Out of Africa theory holds that around 400,000 years ago a population of hominids migrated northward through the Middle East and into Europe and parts of western Asia. Between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago another population from the ancestral continent journeyed a similar route into the Eurasian landmass, and there the two populations met and mated. We are their descendants. The Neandertal species did not go extinct, because it was never a separate species; instead population pockets of Neandertals died out around 30,000 years ago, whereas other Neandertal populations survived through interbreeding with their modern human brothers and sisters, who live on to this day.

I always suspected that Neandertals and anatomically modern humans interbred, based on a simple observation: humans are the most sexual of all the primates, willing and able to do it just about anywhere, anytime, with anyone (and even with other species if the Kinsey report is to be believed in its findings about farmhands and their animal charges). Given the viable hybrid offspring that the most diverse members of our species have produced as a result of cultural conjoinings through both ancient migrations and modern travel, one has to suspect that close encounters of the corporeal kind occurred not infrequently in those dark and lonely cave nights over the course of those long-gone millennia.

Now that is a tale worthy of a romantic novel, brought to you by science.

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58 Comments to “Our Neandertal Brethren”

  1. Dex Says:

    Is that why fairer, or at least red-haired northern Europeans seem to be hairier than southern Europeans, because of Neanderthal genes? Or are they, because of the colder climate, already developing Neanderthal characteristics?
    Is there a genetic difference between them?

  2. Berfrois Says:

    This genetic analysis seemingly lends weight to the idea that the Lagar Velho child was indeed the result of long-term hybridization between Neanderthals and modern humans.

    Even if this particular skeleton is not considered to display Neanderthal affinities, paleoanthropologists (and evolutionary anthropologists, of course) will surely now be waiting with increased anticipation for further, more concrete examples of Neanderthal/modern human love to be discovered.

    See: http://www.pnas.org/content/96/13/7604.full.pdf

  3. Earl Wajenberg Says:

    Dex asks: “Is that why fairer, or at least red-haired northern Europeans seem to be hairier than southern Europeans, because of Neanderthal genes? Or are they, because of the colder climate, already developing Neanderthal characteristics?”

    So far as I know, there is no real evidence that Neanderthals were particularly hairy or non-hairy. Artists depict them as hairy, almost all the time, as part of the traditional “ape-man” image, but I never heard of any anatomical or genetic basis for it. I recall one — ONE — striking painting of a family of Neanderthals, un-hairy, blond, clad it nicely trimmed buckskin. No more or less plausible than the reverse.

    There is genetic evidence that some Neanderthals were red-headed, but their gene for red hair was different from the current gene for red head.

    Also, Northern Europenas, Southern Europeans, and Chinese (almost totally lacking in body hair) are all equally related to Neanderthals, as the article says. It might happen to be the case that hairy modern humans inherit the feature from Neanderthals, but they don’t have MORE Neanderthal genes than the others, just the ones that happen to code for body hair.

  4. frank! Says:

    small point – but perhaps not trivial …

    surely the kinsey fraud is so egregious that no reference should be found in any serious discusion

  5. j dexter Says:

    Never mind the kinsey fraud, I missed seeing this as a serious discussion. I thought I had stumbled across some very bad comedy. There are actually people who believe this pseudo science when credible evidence for it is non-existent?
    This is nothing but religious hocus pocus!

  6. fatherdaddy Says:

    j dexter,
    Isn’t genetic evidence credible? I have not heard that genetic evidence is considered pseudo science. At least not from anyone other than a creationist.

  7. Dan Turner Says:

    The problem is that scientists sometimes get over focused on two things. The answer they want (and by abusing statistics they can sometimes get it)and the narrow field of study they choose.
    In this case genetics are a good solid science but have to be understood with the idea that they are keys that turn things on and are activated by epi-genetic factors. Life is way more complex than the simple answers we often want to comfort our limited intellect. Quantum Mechanics is an excellent example of how we doggedly (hope I spelled that one right) hold on to the old science of atomic physics which works at one level and need to explore other factors to get closer to a better picture.
    Have a great day reader

  8. Dan Turner Says:

    A caution on all early man thoughts. We must remember that even with genetics the pictures painted by researchers etc. is one of an interpretation by artists and there are underlying assumptions that are made. An example would be how I can take a computer program and morph a person from a human into a dog, cat, or fish. Artists who have only bones etc. have to use imagination to fill in the missing pieces. I guess unless we find a frozen human similar to the mammoths with all his/her hair etc in place we must take things like hair color, skin color etc. with a cautious eye and remind ourselves that they are one artists interpretation of the thing not a photographic image.

  9. ImposterAZ Says:

    A potentially more interesting discussion might be whether this hybridization with Neandertals is what made the latest “out of Africa” migrationn so successful. Previous migrations did widely disperse Homo species, but they were never anywhere as successful as the last migration in spreading to all climates and in much greater numbers. It’s possible that the merging of the adaptations of Neandertals with those of the latest African wave gave us the genetic variation to adapt much more broadly then any groups before.

  10. dan turner Says:

    If you assume genetics have that much do to with it. We have genes that are never expressed and genes that when expressed cause weakness, disease, and death. It is much more to do with epi-genetics and climate at the time of migration than genes I think. Genetics are at best a roll of the dice as I am learning by breeding orchids. That is why you have the labs set up 100+ seeds to find the ones that make it and those that are weak and those that have death like characteristics. Chance is the biggest factor in all life and like I said I think genetics is just a roll of the dice.
    Look at Dolly for cloning and other genetics based experiments. Except for plants the others are soo complex that even with computers the failure rate is enormous and that is when everything is controlled.

  11. davidovitch Says:

    I don’t quite understand why we have only 1-4 per cent of Neanderthal genes within us. Shouldn’t the percentage be much higher if we are so closely related.

    Also, anybody who has seen the movie Quest for Fire can plainly see that Neanderthal women were a pack of shameless hussy’s.
    Who can blame homo-sapien males for taking advantage of such sexual wantonness.
    Any red-blooded male surrounded by a bunch of rampaging neanderthal nymphomaniacs couldn’t help but give these little beasts what they so craved and desired.

  12. jay Says:

    Those above who are making a big deal of genes being expressed of not expressed, or affected by environment are completely missing the point.

    In this discussion, whether the genes are expressed or not is irrelevant. The matchup of genes (whether or expressed or non expressed) tells us approximately how much cross breeding occurred.

  13. Nica Says:

    The author seems to imagine that Neandertal genes entered “modern” humans by way of male moderns impregnating Neandertal females.
    Not likely when the female is built like the WWF’s Chyna on steriods–and could slam your jaw through the back of your head with one blow. If the Neandertal female didn’t want it, it wasn’t going to happen. And what woman is turned on by scrawny toothpick men, as the moderns might have appeared to Neandertals?
    But powerfully built bulked-up Neandertal males and modern females…. You can see where this is going. And do refer to research on how many women orgasm during rape–and how many become pregnant.
    Even setting aside rape, modern females might have been strongly sexually attracted to Neandertal males as they would cue so many alpha male signal responses. Talk about being swept off your feet…. And conversely modern women might have appeared ultra-feminine and intensely sexually attractive to Neandertal males. Are there any contemporary counterparts to this? Hmmm… Sure, sure, the obvious one you are thinking of. But maybe more aptly, how about white men and Oriental women? Lotta comparisons to be made there.
    Oh, btw, will we ever know how well hung Neandertal males were? And, yes, size matters, boys.
    Would modern females willingly–even eagerly–coupling with Neandertal males be unusual behavior? Possibly no more unusual than a present-day woman marrying a wimpy university professor but having her orgasms–and perhaps her pregnancies–with the varsity athlete she tutors.
    So why did Neandertals disappear if they were masters of the bedroom? Choose your favorite reason from the usual–moderns more aggressive or with better weapons or tactics, superior and/or more intensive exploitation of the environment, an introduced disease they were immune to, etc. Sexual jealousy might have fueled warfare, rather like the university professor getting the student expelled.
    Whatever the cause, a small population reproduction differential would be all it would take to drive Neandertals into oblivion, leaving only genetic traces behind to record the origin of the Beauty and the Beast folk tale.

  14. dan Says:

    We have 100% neanderthal genes in us again it is the expression of those genes that separate us from the so called neanderthals. Remember that Neandthals were simply bones from the Neander Valley where they were discovered. The rest in the imagination of the artist. Look to artifacts of civilization to find the true differences. Science shows we are only about 1-2% different genetically from simians and not much more than that from other animals. If you take genetic material from all over the world and do a true genetic work up like was done for the human genome project we all have the same genes or keys. It is the epi-genetics that make the difference and those are controlled by the place you are found, prior breeding, and CHANCE.

  15. ImposterAZ Says:

    Two points:

    1. The 1-4% contribution is only for those genes that are different between Neandertals and the Africans. The vast majority of genes will still be indentical between them.

    2. Having a greater diversity of genes within our genome does affect what is expressed in populations. As the environment selects those who live or die, having a greater variety helps to gaurantee that at least some will survive and keep that local population going.

    As far as expression of genes and adaptations goes, it could very well be that it was Neandertals that first developed lighter skin and hair color, and abundant body hair, from their time evolving in Europe. That could be some of the contribution they made to the Africans, such that the subsequent hybrids were then able to adapt to various climates more quickly. Thus the hybrid population was able to draw upon the evolutionary background of both ancestor groups, and not have to reinvent the wheel (so to speak).

  16. Troy Says:

    The 1-4% genetic contribution is approximately the same percentage as the morphological and archeological contributions we know of. Isn’t it likely that the common cause is that Neanderthals had around 1-4% of the population as the out-of-Africa folks?

    Hunter-gatherer cultures have usually been outnumbered by an order of magnitude when agricultural cultures move in, so maybe it was a similar situation with Ice Age people encountering temperate zone people.

  17. Wayne Says:

    Ah, yes. ‘Quest for Fire’. A marvelous documentary. But what I find most astonishing is the sophistication of the cinematography back those many thousand of years ago.

  18. Tom Says:

    1. The article implies that Neanderthals never went extinct. This contradicts the fossil evidence. The Neanderthal morphology exits the fossil record about 30,000 years ago. With the exception of a few potential hybrids, the disappearance is complete. Whether a species or subspecies, the bulk of Neanderthal population disappeared.

    2. It may not have required very many hybridizations to find expression in Eurasian populations. Homo sapiens sapiens populations were quite small, and Neanderthal populations seem from the evidence to have been even smaller. The “founder effect” tells us that a very few individuals can profoundly shape the genetic makeup of their thousands or millions of descendants.

    3. I wonder whether Neanderthal was the only semi-isolated human genome to have contributed to contemporary human populations. If H. sapiens sapiens expanded out of Southern Africa (see the August Sci American), the species could easily have encountered other populations throughout Africa and – perhaps – in Eurasia as well. Our knowledge of our human ancestry reflects the location of our spadework. We’ve dug up ancestral bones in Europe, Southwest Asia, China and certain parts of Africa (mostly the Rift Valley and South Africa), but haven’t done as much work in other regions.

  19. Vaughn Says:

    The claim that we are the most sexual of primates will be greeted by laughter from the bonobo watchers.

    Having many years in a farming community I, for one, do not doubt Dr. Kinsey’s respondents’ stories of barnyard bestiality.

  20. Zeke Says:

    This just proves the mankind’s eternal adage: “Hole and a heartbeat”.

  21. Stephen Says:

    Evolutionism is the tinfoil hat atheists wear to keep God out of their brainwaves.

  22. Ram2009 Says:

    This cannot be right. The god of the mountain only created man some 6500 years ago, “erudite” people tell us. If we do not accept that as fact, then the “chosen people” fantasy loses its appeal.

  23. TallDave Says:

    I am puzzled. If we (europeans, indians, chinese etc etc) left africa 80,000 years ago, mated with Neanderthals, then spread all over the globe, does that mean that the homo sapiens left behind in Africa didn’t mate with neanderthals and don’t have neanderthal genes in them?

    And therefore what genetic differences does that give us that distinguish us, ie most of humanity, from Africans?

  24. Eleanor Says:

    It is said that Neandertals didn’t have a verbal language as such. Now I do appreciate that you can’t tell me if this is true or not, but what are your thoughts on the subject, please?

    I have long believed that Neadertals interbred with Homo Sapien. I don’t know why I believe this except that I can’t think of a reason for why they wouldn’t.

  25. ImposterAZ Says:

    TallDave,

    You’re observation is correct — from the articles on this issue, modern Africans show much less Neandertal DNA than other racial groups. They do show some, though, as some populations of Eurasian humans have reentered Africa during the intervening 80K years.

    Eleanor,

    Last I heard, evidence from Neandertal jawbones show that they did not have the throat structures modern humans have that give rise to our great flexibility in creating vocalizations. Whether that means they could not talk at all, or were just much more limited in the sounds they could make, we may never know.

  26. TallDave Says:

    “between 1 and 4% of the genomes of people in Eurasia are derived from Neandertals”

    Do we have any idea what these genes are concerned with? Eyesight, skin colour, hair type?

  27. Eleanor Says:

    Thank you. So presumably the throat structure would have improved with interbreeding, this suggests that there is a superior level of skeletal structure in Homo Sapiens which overtook Neandertals while still incorporating the two. But why did this happen? Why did this particular facet not survive in some modern day humans?

    Sorry if my questions seem stupid but it is a subject which fascinates me.

  28. Erica Says:

    I believe the internal cranial structure of Neanderthal skulls suggests that the area of the brain associated with language is significantly underdeveloped when compared to other human ancestors, both contemporary to Neanderthals and later. This would also indicate an absent or greatly reduced capacity for verbal communication.

  29. james usa Says:

    However there is a distinct variance between Negroid DNA and Caucasian DNA.

  30. ImposterAZ Says:

    Eleanor,

    No, not stupid at all! This is actually a central concept in what makes modern humans modern. Our throat structures that allows such varied vocalizations also make us very vulnerable to aspirating our food and drink. This is actually such a problem that language must be much more advantagous than the problems it causes (just listen in any restaurant — people choke on their food and drink very often!).

    If Neandertals had poor vocalization, I would think that the same forces that drove evolution of vocalization in the Africans would still be at work to select against any “regression” that might occur due to hybridization with Neandertals.

  31. ImposterAZ Says:

    James usa,

    No, not that I know of. What we see as “racial differences” are actually just variable expression of genes that we all have. That doesn’t mean that there are absolutely no genes that are unique among certain isolated groups, but I don’t believe there are any that have been identified as actually unique among large populations.

  32. ImposterAZ Says:

    Erica,

    This is another interesting issue that has “chicken or egg” implications. Did modern human brain deveopment for language/vocalization develop first and drive selection of changes to our throat structure, or was it the other way around? This harkens back to the “large brain vs. walking upright — which came first” cunundrum.

  33. Ben Says:

    If memory serves, this was the subject of a romance novel, or at least a Romantic one: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel.

  34. Pete B Says:

    Wouldn’t one likely characteristic difference be that Neanderthals had paler (white) skin whereas Homo Sapiens had darker (black)?

    Modern Africans, presumably more directly descended from the European founder population, are overwhelmingly black skinned and back skin gives UV protection in strong sunlight. Conversely, paler skin is advantageous in the more Northerly European latitudes because it helps produce vitamin D from the weaker sunshine.

    Pete

  35. ImposterAZ Says:

    Ben and Pete,

    Exactly. Let me see if I remember: the strong, light-skinned, blonde Neandertal woman is adopted as a foundling by the skinny, dark African tribe somewhere in the Caucuses and is taught how to speak and make complex tools? :-)

    That might actually be how it was, if this latest info is correct. Though I don’t think Neandertal women normally looked like Daryl Hanna (from the movie).

  36. Eleanor Says:

    I have read all of Jean Auel’s, “Earth’s Children”. series, several times.

    I appreciate they they are fiction, but very interesting, and not far out.

    Thank you again, for the answer.

  37. james usa Says:

    Imposter Az. Any Bio Chem with Phd in Nano Tech will confirm African DNA within 3% of Ocean Invertebrate, other areas are being investigated.

  38. Ishkandar Says:

    Nica (#13) says: “Not likely when the female is built like the WWF’s Chyna on steriods–and could slam your jaw through the back of your head with one blow. If the Neandertal female didn’t want it, it wasn’t going to happen. And what woman is turned on by scrawny toothpick men, as the moderns might have appeared to Neandertals?”

    Perhaps you have forgotten that the over-riding drive at that time was not the appearance of the mate but the ability to provide food, shelter and protection. Perhaps the more technologically advanced “modern” humans would seem far more attractive to the Neanderthals since they could provide more food and more readily and consistently; especially after they have “tamed” various animals for food or other uses. Cattle, dogs, horses, etc. were probably in use before settled agriculture existed.

    I believe the sequence went – Hunter/gatherers -> nomadic herders -> farmers.

    BTW, when the woman and her children are starving to death, the hunkiest man starts to look more and more like a mobile lump of dinner !!

    On a more serious note, what price the “Hobbits” of Flores Island ?? Neanderthals, modern human, hybrid or yet another race/species ??

  39. ImposterAZ Says:

    Ishkandar,

    I agree with your comments above, though there is another gradation to the Hunter/Gatherer > Nomadic Herder > Farmer model — there is also the Nomadic Farmer. This is a concept from the American Southwest where Pre-Columbian natives often practiced farming by preparing some ground, setting up rain catchment irrigation, planting seed and then leaving to follow game. They would come back around at the time to harvest. It’s a relatively low intensity way to supplement regular hunting/Gathering, though yields would obviously be much less per acre than if they tended their crops.

    On the “Hobbits” of Flores, that’s really up in the air at the moment! You have people saying that they are everything from a deformed micro-population of modern humans, to skeletons of deformed children of normal humans, to decendants of Homo Erectis that never mixed with modern humans. This may take a very long time to finally settle.

  40. Pete B Says:

    Ishkandar, Imposter,
    I think you are both projecting 21st Century Western cultural judgements back on to early humans – and that surely can’t be right. Modern hunter-gatherers e.g the San often see large size as beautiful, and that surely makes more sense in terms of natural selection in physically challenging environments with potential food shortages than would valuing size zero models.

    Pete

  41. John the Piper's Son Says:

    The last time I got blind raving drunk I ended up taking a Neanderthal home. Very interesting experience.

  42. ImposterAZ Says:

    Pete B,

    I see it more as what is most adapable to an environment, and then mothing looks more attractive than success. For that, you really have to look at both micro-climates and at large scale climates over large distances and time scales.

    Neadertals were well adapted to a relatively narrow set of climate conditions, and to a rather physical method of getting their meat (their bones show smilar abuse that rodeo bull riders show). If the climate shifts enough that the megafauna starts to die out, it will be the more gracile Africans, with the bigger tool kit — including missile weapons, that will adapt faster and survive. By successfully surviving, they became the most attractive.

  43. Victor Says:

    Imagine the ‘modern human’ female addressing her Neanderthal mate after a domestic accident caused by his brain’s failure to compute something perfectly obvious to her.

    “Don’t just stand there! Say something!”

    It all seems quite familiar.

  44. ImposterAZ Says:

    HA! Yes, I can see it now — resarchers determine that most of the Neandertal DNA in our genome is concentrated in the Y Chromosome. Women world wide would simply sigh and say, “I knew it!”

  45. Hammar Says:

    If Neanderthal males were craved by Homo Sapiens females and responded enthusiastically to their femininity, all too often ignoring their own females, then perhaps Homo Neanderthalensis fucked himself out of existence.

  46. MikeTheInfidel Says:

    I think you’ll find that Stephen @#21 is Bevets, Creationist troll and beloved of Fark.com:
    http://www.bevets.com/

  47. Carlos Says:

    In middle school, some 55 years ago in San Jose, CA, I remember a math teacher there with the most impressive brow ridges I have ever seen. I have thought of him as I considered our relatives – Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.

  48. Bill G Says:

    The important thing to realize is that all this was occurring before the formalization of religion and marriage. So all the offspring of our ancestors were born out of wedlock. No wonder we are all such bastards!!

  49. Someone Says:

    @Imposter and his Y-chromosome.
    Well, that could actually be the case…

    We all know the stereotypes: women are judged more on their looks then men are (men are judged on signs of status instead, like the size of their car). Now, keep in mind that there was little sexual dimorphism in Neanderthals, there was a smaller difference between women and men than there is in our species. A typical neanderthal women would have almost no waist, very manly facial features and the muscular structure of a small bear. It’s symply not a recipe for seducing a cro-magnon (one of us). Besides, no self respecting Neanderthal woman would fall for a pussy modern man. Any guy you can pick up with one hand is not a real man.
    Therefor, the other combo is much more likely. It would take some getting used to, sure, but it could work. Now, assuming this effect keeps working in later generations, where women with many Neanderthal-genes get slightly less than avarage children where men with Neanderthal-genes are slightly more succesfull you’dd expect to find virtually no Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA, which passes through the maternal line, but you’dd also expect more Neanderthal DNA being preserved on the Y-chromosome than in any other place in the genome.
    Too bad it’s such a tiny bit of DNA…

  50. Someone Says:

    On the other hand…

    The Y-chromosome, like the mitochondrial DNA, is always passed on whole, as one unit. This makes it vulnerable for dying out. On top of that our Y-chromosomal Adam lived about 70.000 years ago, according to DNA research on modern humans. Ten times too late for predating the split between us and Neanderthals.
    “Normal” DNA can mix and match. Normally speaking one chromosome in each pair comes from your mother and one from yur father, but these sometimes exchange ammounts of DNA, effectively becomming hybrids themselves. So it’s probably more likely that there are some traces here and there in many people than that some people have a Neanderthal Y-chromosome…
    (It would be cool though. ;))

  51. Someone Says:

    O, almost forgot:
    Even is Neanderthals did a lot of breeding with Europeans at the time, that doesn’t mean they live on in modern Europeans, the population was likely almost entirely replaced by newcomers from the Middle East that brought agriculture and the late stone age. So interbreeding earlier on in that same Middle East could have left more traces.

  52. Sally-Anne Lambert Says:

    Last year I was viciously attacked verbally in front of colleagues at university for stating to an English associate-professor that it wasn’t proven that Peking Man – or Neandertal – hadn’t interbred with modern humans. Encountering him again just now, I refrained from suggesting an apology might be in order.

    So thanks Max Planck Institute for the slight vindication, also I’d appreciate a total add-up of genes, more than the grey area percentage.

    Let’s go the whole hog and do some justice to Neanderthal. Leif Ekblad must be pleased too. It’s like the breaking of a dam. Also look out for my ‘Hlingit Word Encyclopedia: The Origin of Copper’ for some of the implications. Time now to see who’s honest, and let’s consider who was right all along too.

    Next step: ban GM.

  53. Michael Says:

    Maybe they evolved from the little green men from Mars and the earth’s environment changed the color of the skin.

  54. Michael Says:

    By the way, maybe they were white and then became African-Americans evolving through the beating of the African sun and dark-tanning the pink-skin Neanderthals?

  55. F Norman Says:

    Let’s think bell curve for a moment… if 1-4% of modern human DNA is from Neanderthal, there must be SOME rare individuals who have more, or have less, than this range. Has anyone thought about testing abberant individuals for a higher percentage?

    If anyone follows Olympic wrestling, there is outstanding wrestler named Alexander Karelin, a 286 pound “freak of nature”, unnaturally strong, and was born weighing a shocking 15 pounds.

    Is it possible he has a higher percentage of neanderthal DNA, or that the neaderthal DNA he does have is manifested in the areas that have made him the most dominating wrestler in Olympic history?

    Google him, read his bio, look at him, and tell me if the thought I have on this isn’t crazy.
    Also, maybe the new Desinova DNA is also at play?

  56. ook Says:

    We’re early in this genetic analysis. I would be willing to wager that much more striking revelations will occur in the coming years and it will be shown that Europeans today have a much higher percentage of Neanderthal DNA than Paabo’s conservative estimate. Europeans almost certainly inherited lack of melanin and red hair from H.Neanderthalis…even if those genes have mutated somewhat in the last 60000 years.

  57. beenatural101 Says:

    Interesting ideas everyone. I saw something above about modern man having domesticated animals and neanderthals not. This is simply not the case. Look at 3 of the main domestic animals we have. The dog, the goat, and the cow. The dog and wolf separated in Europe 135000 years ago according to dna studies. Great! Dogs are evolved from european wolves. “modern” man aka cro magnon showed up on the scene in europe at least 50000 years after that. The cow (aurochs in those days) bovine domestic dna shows a common ancestor between india cattle and western cattle over 100000 years ago. # separate goat lineages go back 200 to 275 thousand years ago. That being said, wear studies of neanderthals mousterian tool technology show many of the tools were used for wood working. Ever try to chase a cow down? Corrals to hold animals are only a small step above a natural bottleneck to drive the hunted into. Just close the ends. Music in africa to this day remains mostly percussion and vocals. Neanderthals are known to have bone flutes and whistles. Perhaps they used them to call animals, or communicate over distance in a hunt. Maybe they were mimicking birds, who knows.

  58. Justin Says:

    Neanderthals and Africans started interbreeding about 70,000 years ago. The African/Neanderthal hybrid that survives emerged from this mixing about 30,000 years ago. Soon after animals were domesticated, agriculture began, metallurgy was discovered, cities formed, mathematics began and our written history started. For 400,000 years neither the Neanderthals or the Africans had been able to do these things. Hybridization of the two varieties of human kick started history. I’m starting to believe the differences we see in measurable IQ scores between Africans and (hybrid) non-Africans.

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