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Did modern humans interbreed with Neanderthals and, if so, did the mating result in a half-human, half-Neanderthal hybrid?
The answer is possibly ‘yes’ to the interbreeding but ‘no’ to the hybrid, according to the authors of a new study that is already making waves among anthropologists.
At the centre of the study, published online in the Journal of Human Evolution, and the current debate, is a 29,000 year old Romanian skull that is one of the oldest fossils in Europe with modern human features.
But those features aren’t quite a perfect match with us, which has led some experts to suspect it was a cross between a Neanderthal and a modern human.
That’s not so, according to study leader Dr Katerina Harvati, a senior researcher in the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and adjunct associate professor of anthropology at the City University of New York Graduate School.
“It differs from living people only in subtle ways, and always well within the range of modern human variation,” says Harvati, who worked with the Max Planck Institute researcher Dr Philipp Gunz and Professor Dan Grigorescu, from the University of Bucharest.
She and her team took detailed 3D measurements of the Romanian skull, called Cioclovina calvaria, and compared these with a similar head shape analysis of Neanderthals, modern humans and fossils of other hominids found in Europe, Africa and countries bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The researchers also studied animal hybrids and developed an unprecedented list of proposed criteria for evaluating whether or not a fossil specimen is a hybrid.
The criteria include: greater or much smaller size than the parental species, on average; evidence for developmental instability; possible occurrence of rare attributes, such as having extra teeth or bone joints; and possessing an intermediate shape.
“Cioclovina did not meet any of these criteria — a strong refutation of the hypothesis that it represents a hybrid,” Harvati says.
The scientists support the ‘single origin’ model of human evolution.
This holds that modern humans evolved between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago in a single location, mostly likely Africa, with subsequent migration displacing archaic hominid populations, including Neanderthals, around the world.
The researchers, however, do not rule out that interbreeding may have taken place.
“[If it occurred] it was probably a rare event and the result was not significant in evolutionary terms.”
Dr Ian Tattersall, curator in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History in New York says he is “thoroughly in agreement” with the new study.
“The strenuous search for a Neanderthal-modern human hybrid has yet to turn up any evidence of such a thing.”
Delson [Professor Eric Delson, chairman of the department of anthropology at Lehman College] adds that, when combined with recent genetic studies that have found “indications of low to nonexistent” levels of Neanderthal genetic imprinting on modern humans, the new findings lead “us to reject widespread hybridisation and thus a major influence of Neanderthals on later human populations in Europe”.
(Posted on December 11, 2007)
Well, I’m a ‘contrarian’ skeptic on this one: I feel that Neanderthals contributed genetically to some degree [more than 25,000 years ago] to what we now know as the Caucasian race. It’s just a hunch … and the genetic evidence may later bear this out; right now the genetic evidence is FAR too skimpy to be definitive either way. Neanderthals had big brains, fair skin and red hair — -and although that trait doesn’t add up to a lineage, I still feel that too many ‘white’ traits simply aren’t present in the rest of homo to account for the very distinctive looks of Europeans. So-called superficial racial traits must have extended substantially as far back as pre-archaic homo sapiens.
Posted by ActionPotential at 7:27 PM on December 11
And the sporting world is unaware of its tragic loss.
Posted by White Gene at 7:34 PM on December 11
Sounds like cave-women had better morals than white women do today. Modern females are certainly making up for the lack of past race-mixing.
Posted by Venom at 9:32 PM on December 11
If only we could exhibit the same good sense our ancient forbears had we may actually survive as a race.
Posted by Flamethrower at 9:53 PM on December 11
Venom and flamethrower I hate to break this to you but it is pretty clear that Neanderthals were not simply another race. They were a different species. We need to come to terms with this and realize that, even if we accept that all of our ancestors came from Africa within the last 200,000 years, that doesn’t mean that our differences are skin deep. Humans adapt very quickly to changing conditions and 200,000 years is more than enough time to account for the differences we see today among the races - including behaviors.
Posted by jewamongyou at 12:07 AM on December 12
Ross and Rana clearly showed that Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens sapiens (HSS-white man) clearly are NOT inter-related, in their book, “Who was Adam?” a nice balanced look at science from neither the darwinian atheist evolutionary model, or the ‘We are all one race, the the human race’ model both the more rabid egalitarian Multiculturalists, and the ‘epsitemologically consistent’ ICR (Institute for “Creation Research”) crowd holds to.
All of it is fast becoming a house of cards, that neither the race-mixers of the Evangelical ‘convert everyone to Christianity’ crowd, or the “Miscegenation is the New Black chic” Crowd, with their ‘what can we do for Darfur?’ and “Designer babies’ of ‘rainbow hues’ that people our grocery store tabloids.
It seems that the Revealed Christian religion, Western science, and the expanding study of the fossil record show, that the Almighty made Adam’s race to ‘be ye separate’ from everything that went before, and from the remaining cross-bred species that still populated this planet, before HSS came along…..
The phrase “This holds that modern humans evolved between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago in a single location, mostly likely Africa,” cracked me up. Thirty years ago, Leakey’s ‘discovery’ of “Lucy” was PROOF positive we all are descended from apes out of Africa. NO discussion, no question. Two generations later, now the pundits say ‘Most likely’…. HA!
Fascinating. The more they hope to find the ‘missing link,’ Whatever that ‘link’ is, that will link European/Caucasian/ Western Man with the other races/simioids they envision are our ancestors, all to avoid the verse, “Let us make man in OUR image,” the more it is denied them. Truly, “God laughs them to scorn.”
Posted by Fr. John at 10:52 AM on December 12
Jewamongyou - this is a re-visitation to some report about 2.5-3 years ago that looked at the DNA basis for the disappearance of the Neanderthal. I wish I could share the name of the report, but I can’t remember. Its interesting though how the “disappearance” occurred in what is now Austria-Germany and to what is now Europe. Europe’s civilizations were the most technologically advanced. I don’t think this is mere association but causation.
Posted by MePartNeaderthal at 10:53 AM on December 12
The lineage that reached the Homo Sapiens plateau some 160,000 YA in East Africa is the parent lineage for all of humanity. But contrary to what some posters are implying, some members of that lineage did not leave Africa until some 50,000 YA — only. And they did not travel only to Eurasia but to Australasia, Melanesia(Fiji, New Guinea, etc.) passing through South Asia — where some stayed.
The resaon why the Neanderthals are seen as a separate species is that they were a human version of Homo Erectus that travelled out of Africa some 1 million years ago. They were human because they had language, buried their dead and created technology. But they are back. I have seen them in that Geico commercial.
I doubt that they were killed off by anyone because they slowly faded away over a 15,000 year period. Perhaps it was some virus or other. After all, Eurasia at that time was vastly underpopulated and was bountiful in fruit and wild game.
Posted by OCCAM at 2:12 PM on December 12
To Action Potential:
What you suggest is unlikely if not impossible.
From what I have read the Neanderthal line separated from homo sapiens approxmately 400,000 years ago. Versus the current separation for the various races being around 30,000 years ago.
Even if there are similar traits this could easily be explained by what’s called analogous evolution. For example bats and insects fly even though they are evoultionarily speaking far apart. This isn’t because bats and insects have the same genes for wings, its because different genes in bats and insects produce the same effect: flight.
Now on the other hand whales have flippers and humans have hands. This is homologous evoltution because these structures are a result of the same genes.
Posted by Yellow Man at 2:47 PM on December 12
“The criteria include: greater or much smaller size than the parental species, on average; evidence for developmental instability; possible occurrence of rare attributes, such as having extra teeth or bone joints; and possessing an intermediate shape.”
This sounds like the way physical Anthropologists determine the race of a skeleton today. But, I thought we were “all the same”.
Posted by at 3:03 PM on December 12
OK, folks. Nothing is ‘clear’ — -merely well exposited. Too early to say. We are speculating, and that’ll have to do and be acknowledged for the time being. DNA analysis is expanding rapidly, and the sample sources of ancient Neanderthal DNA are extremely narrow in scope. It’s a tantalizing subject, yet either way, we didn’t get where we are from some noble plan or behavior on the part of our forebears. Things have been far more random and rough-and-tumble than our sanctimonious selves would wish to think.
Posted by ActionPotential at 9:17 PM on December 12
Occam: a Human version of Homo Erectus? That is very fuzzy
and it assumes the point that is in question. Better sharpen that
razor before you make yourself bleed.
Posted by Freyr at 12:15 AM on December 13
Hello Yellow Man: I can very well imagine that Neanderthals separated as far back — -or even much further — -than you say. I agree wholeheartedly with you on the prospect of analogous or convergent evolution; in fact, the red hair allele [of Neanderthal] is now seen as just that. Even so, I am suggesting that some of the N. genome got subsumed into the main homo sapiens line through sporadic ‘hybridization.’ Again, the whole available N. genome under study is simply too minuscule for one to make a determination right now: I don’t care who wrote a book and did excellent, scientifically, and methodologically sound research.
Posted by ActionPotential at 11:46 AM on December 15
According to “March of the Titans: History of the White Race,” by Arthur Kemp, modern human beings are distinct from, and have no relationship to, neanderthals.
Posted by at 7:23 PM on December 18