"Scientists have reconstructed the genome of a man who lived 45,000 years ago, by far the oldest genetic record ever obtained from modern humans. The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, provided new clues to the expansion of modern humans from Africa about 60,000 years ago, when they moved into Europe and Asia. And the genome, extracted from a fossil thighbone found in Siberia, added strong support to a provocative hypothesis: Early humans interbred with Neanderthals."
They came from test tubes. They came pale as ghosts with eyes as blue-white as glacier ice. They came first out of Korea. N-Words - a science fiction short story by Ted Kosmatka. Audio version.
Ötzi the Iceman died around 3,300 B.C., yet his body was preserved frozen in the Alps until 1991. DNA sequencing of Neandertals (who died out about 35,000 years ago) suggests modern humans with ancestry outside of Africa carry a few percent of Neandertal genes due to interbreeding. Now (in a blog post knocking down a re-interpretation of the Neandertal DNA evidence) paleontologist John Hawks previews an upcoming publication of his examining Ötzi's DNA::
If we took as a baseline that Europeans have an average of 3.5 percent Neandertal, Ötzi would have around 5.5 percent (again, the actual percentage would be highly model-dependent). He has substantially greater sharing with Neandertals than any other recent person we have ever examined.Previously (Ötzi), Previously (Neandertals)
A previously unknown kind of human—the Denisovans—likely roamed Asia for thousands of years, probably interbreeding occasionally with humans like you and me, according to a new genetic study. More.
There are some unique finds that tell us about the early lives of people. But of course there are other ways...
Neandertals are the closest ancestral relatives to modern humans. Today, Nature published a special report on the Neandertal genome, for which a draft sequencing of three billion nucleotides has been completed. This high-throughput sequencing project shows how the genetic relationship between Neandertals and modern Europeans and Asians suggests localized interbreeding between the two species roughly 40-80,000 years ago, complicating the common "out-of-Africa" story of how modern humans originated. Additional research extends this low-coverage, first-pass sequencing with a microarray approach that uncovers specific differences between the human and Neandertal genomes.
Twilight of the Neandertals - "Some 28,000 years ago in what is now the British territory of Gibraltar, a group of Neandertals eked out a living along the rocky Mediterranean coast. They were quite possibly the last of their kind [meanwhile] around 30,000 years ago, the number of modern humans who lived to be old enough to be grandparents began to skyrocket." (via) [more inside]
Meet Wilma, the first model of a Neanderthal based in part on ancient DNA evidence. The findings indicate that at least some Neanderthals had red hair, pale skin, and even freckles, adding to the relatively recent evidence that Neanderthals did not interbreed with humans (previously), might have been outbred into extinction by Homo sapiens, and were probably not as stupid as we thought.
Any admixture would have to be driven by male Neanderthals. Two years ago we discussed morphological evidence of nontrivial interbreeding. Since then Neanderthal DNA has been examined for genetic support for this model of human evolution, largely contradicting the belief in Neanderthal contribution to modern humanity. Indeed any contribution from the Neanderthal gene pool to the evolution of modern humans might be very rare and indeed it appears that the best candidate gene thus (MC1R) far likely was a result of convergent evolution. [more inside]
Stone Age Feminism? Among Neanderthals, hunting big beasts was women's work as well as men's, so it's a safe bet that female hunters got stomped, gored, and worse with appalling frequency. And a high casualty rate among fertile women - the vital "reproductive core" of a tiny population - could well have meant demographic disaster for a species already struggling to survive among monster bears, yellow-fanged hyenas, and cunning Homo sapien newcomers. Via.
Size does matter. The size of your species' telomeres. Reinhard Stindl proposed a new theory for extinction -- the internal clock model. "It could explain the disappearance of a seemingly successful species, like Neanderthal man, with no need for external factors such as climate change."
Great, yet unsettling, CGI reconstruction of a Neaderthal child's head. (via robotwisdom)