Neanderthal and Sapiens, sitting in a tree...
October 23, 2014 11:53 AM   Subscribe

"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."
posted by jammy (73 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
My dad is also excellent evidence for this.

(Seriously, we're talking pronounced brow ridge and a jaw that can crack walnuts.)
posted by kyrademon at 12:06 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cleve Blakemore?
posted by Splunge at 12:08 PM on October 23, 2014


Best book ever on this subject: Golding's The Inheritors.
posted by resurrexit at 12:14 PM on October 23, 2014


Humans and Neanderthals interbred 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, according to the new data.

50,000 years ago and you KEEP BRINGING IT UP. Look, we had just (accidentally!) discovered fermentation and things got a little crazy, and you now what Neanderthals are like. I mean, seriously, that's some pretty crazy stuff they've got going on and it seemed like a good idea at the time--why not have a little harmless fun with the old thickskull clan over the river? Wine had the same effect on them that it had on us, and before we knew it, three people had fractured ribs, one lost an eye and fifteen were pregnant. We didn't mean for it to happen, really, it just did. We got a little out of control. I swear, I haven't even looked at a Neanderthal in more than 25,000 years. Let's just put all this behind us, okay? It's time to let the healing begin.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:15 PM on October 23, 2014 [58 favorites]


I have a bad feeling that now that it looks like (as the article puts it) "non-Africans" are part Neanderthal, Neanderthals are going to be idolized by racists.

Super interesting to me btw was the idea that there were waves of colonization of the rest of the world *before* these Neanderthal-loving proto-Euro-Asians, but that those early migrant humans haven't survived to this day. Who were they? What were they like? Are we going to find some someday and get some DNA out of them?
posted by edheil at 12:17 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Breaking: Humans will screw anything that moves, and some things that don't move.
posted by bleep at 12:20 PM on October 23, 2014 [16 favorites]


I told you not to mention the dolomites.
posted by Mogur at 12:23 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Best book ever on this subject: Golding's The Inheritors.

I am sad that this wasn't a surprise link to Clan of the Cave Bear.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:23 PM on October 23, 2014 [17 favorites]


Clearly this means that Jean Auel is a time traveler.
posted by tempestuoso at 12:25 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


One of the fun things about 23andme is that it tells you what percentage of your DNA is likely Neanderthal.

2.9 percent for me. I've always liked cave men and am glad to know I am part caveman myself.
posted by maxsparber at 12:25 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


The findings raised questions about research suggesting that humans in India and the Near East dated back as far as 100,000 years ago.

But where'd they go? Good luck finding a restaurant.
posted by Iridic at 12:28 PM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


Racists do tend to idolize their own kind.

Hey man, don't slag on Neanderthals. My great-great-[...]-great-great-grandmother was Neanderthal.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:28 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have a bad feeling that now that it looks like (as the article puts it) "non-Africans" are part Neanderthal, Neanderthals are going to be idolized by racists.

I don't think racists are generally that keen on being reminded that everyone non-African is an immigrant of one sort or another.

Racists do tend to idolize their own kind.

This is being rather unfair to the poor Neanderthals. They had hand tools, art, burial rituals, really barely any different to us - it's not their fault they got hammered by climate change and the arrival of another species who, one suspects, weren't keen on getting along.

One of the last surviving groups of Neanderthals were on Gibraltar. I remember sitting there, looking out to sea, imagining being the last one of my species, driven to the edge of the continent. They were probably smart enough to realise what was happening, which is a melancholy sort of thought. The monkeys on the Rock cheered me up though.
posted by sobarel at 12:37 PM on October 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


This explains my forearms.
posted by grubi at 12:37 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


This raises a whole bunch of questions. If humans and Neanderthals had a common ancestor 600,000 years ago, and only interbred with each other 50,000 years ago, then what kept them apart for 550,000 years? Did the Neanderthals all leave Africa for Europe and Asia, only to be met by humans when the humans left Africa much later?
posted by rocket88 at 12:39 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


The fascinating thing to me is the support for the idea that the expansion out of Africa (at least the one that lasted) did indeed come only 50-60K ago. Because we really *booked* out from there; there's good evidence that we reached Australia 40K back, this guy was in Siberia 45K back. That's some seriously fast expansion. Other waves of hominins came out of Africa but don't seem to have wiped out all the competition in the same way, homo erectus was still hanging around after Homo heidelbergensis came through. So what was the difference? I used to assume modern language, except that we had already diverged within Africa at about 100K back, if I recall, and the descendants of those groups all have the same language abilities.

Did our tool kit just reach a critical point? I.e., language meant that we could build on past innovations and make new ones, meaning that once we were able to cross the Red Sea we were just that devastating a new force?
posted by tavella at 12:42 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, when I first migrated from the South I mated with some oddballs too. They're not extinct now, but they've stopped sending Christmas cards.
posted by Devonian at 12:42 PM on October 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


My great-great-[...]-great-great-grandmother was Neanderthal.

Grandfather, most likely. Nobody has found any evidence of Neanderthal mtDNA in modern human populations, which is very suggestive that all of the interbreeding - or at least all of the interbreeding that ended up producing descendants in the modern population - was male Neanderthal with female Sapiens.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 12:43 PM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]




Boreal Forest Love.
posted by Kabanos at 12:49 PM on October 23, 2014


Grandfather, most likely. Nobody has found any evidence of Neanderthal mtDNA in modern human populations, which is very suggestive that all of the interbreeding - or at least all of the interbreeding that ended up producing descendants in the modern population - was male Neanderthal with female Sapiens.

Well this is going to open up a lot of awkward questions at the next family reunion.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:52 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Did the Neanderthals all leave Africa for Europe and Asia, only to be met by humans when the humans left Africa much later?

Homo heidelbergensis had spread across Africa, Europe and Western Asia and the populations diverged: the Eurasian population developed into Neanderthals while the African population were our direct ancestors (assuming we're all Homo sapiens reading this).
posted by sobarel at 12:53 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Except mitochondrial DNA is all or nothing, so there could have been female Neanderthals involved, it's just that none of them had an unbroken line of female children. There isn't any sign of a Neanderthal Y-chromosome either, is there?
posted by tavella at 12:57 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have a bad feeling that now that it looks like (as the article puts it) "non-Africans" are part Neanderthal, Neanderthals are going to be idolized by racists.

This is already happening, oftentimes in a way that's scientifically inaccurate. They stretch the truth and omit things to fit their preconceived worldview. Typical propaganda type stuff. Check the reader comments on scientific articles about this topic and there will usually be some cryptoracism going on. Neanderthals went from being dumb brutes to possibly smarter and more civilized than modern humans. Amazing transition.
posted by ChuckRamone at 12:59 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I half expect a Neaderthal dating site and backbreeding programs, knowing how odd people are.
posted by Thing at 1:03 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


...and part Cherokee. Don't forget the Cherokee.
posted by Chuffy at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


This raises a whole bunch of questions. If humans and Neanderthals had a common ancestor 600,000 years ago, and only interbred with each other 50,000 years ago, then what kept them apart for 550,000 years?

The Mediterranean, basically. This appears to be classic speciation through geographic isolation. A common ancestor spread out and the Eurasians slowly developed into Neanderthals. It was probably quite a slow division, which is why at least some interbreeding was possible as late as 50,000 years ago.

We're learning a lot about speciation, and that it's a messier process than previously thought. It's been famously hard to nail down the human-chimp divergence, and it may be because there isn't a sharp division. It looks like there was a gradual drift with interbreeding incidents scattered over a few million years. There may have still been gene flow through groups were the boundary was fuzzy. (You can even have two groups that cannot interbreed exchange genes if there are intermediate groups between that can interbreed. There is arctic bird continuum of species like this.) Within Homo those divergences are even smaller.
posted by spaltavian at 1:07 PM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


What were they like?

Probably tasty, I'm sorry to say.

Quest for Fire was right?

Quest for Fire is so wrong that it has to be right.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:08 PM on October 23, 2014


sobarel: "Neanderthals are going to be idolized by racists."

I've always thought it kinda flips racism on it's head, because in truth, Africans are the more pure humans.

White people are just horny monkey fuckers.
posted by wcfields at 1:11 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, actually, Neanderthals were apes.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:14 PM on October 23, 2014


I thought Neanderthals were early humans.
posted by jonmc at 1:15 PM on October 23, 2014


Hey, I was quoting edheil from upthread. And regarding any group of people as "more pure humans" isn't, I would suggest, the best way to counter racist thinking.
posted by sobarel at 1:16 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


We're all apes under the skin.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:17 PM on October 23, 2014


More like meanderthals, right?
posted by michaelh at 1:17 PM on October 23, 2014


Well, actually, Neanderthals were apes.

I thought Neanderthals were early humans.


Humans are late apes.
posted by spaltavian at 1:18 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Humans are late apes.

Only if we forget to set our alarm clocks.
posted by sobarel at 1:21 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


I thought humans were apes in trousers.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:22 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


More like great apes, amirite? *High fives a Homo habilis*
posted by spaltavian at 1:24 PM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


Grandfather, most likely. Nobody has found any evidence of Neanderthal mtDNA in modern human populations, which is very suggestive that all of the interbreeding - or at least all of the interbreeding that ended up producing descendants in the modern population - was male Neanderthal with female Sapiens.

I've heard theories (I think via reading about the research behind the Clan of the Cave Bear series) that either fN+mS only produced sterile offspring while mN+fS produced fertile offspring (sort of a variant on the whole mule hybrid thing), or that due to the physiological differences in head and pelvis sizes, female Sapiens were more likely to be able to deliver a hybrid baby safely, while female Neanderthals and their hybrid offspring were more likely to experience complications during delivery and not survive it. (I have no citation on any of this since like I said, I can't remember exactly where I read it, but it's pretty fascinating to consider)
posted by olinerd at 1:28 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Many Slavic men (myself included) have a tendency to develop enormously bushy eyebrows and hair in places where it seems to be unnecessary. Now I know why.
posted by tommasz at 1:32 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I could be wrong about this, but sometimes I feel that the coverage of genetic linkage with Neaderthals implies that "humans" have some Neanderthal genes - as if the sub-set of people with Eurasian ancestry constitute what matters as humanity. This article is better than most in qualifying that this applies to non-Africans. "We" don't have Neanderthal ancestry - just a sub-set of us do. I presumably have some, which I find fascinating, but there are a whole bunch of humans that don't, and those same humans are often overlooked.
posted by neutralmojo at 1:35 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


This article talks about a possible female Neanderthal and male Sapien coupling. I think it's natural to assume the other way around, but wouldn't a female Neanderthal have a more robust body, larger birth canal to accommodate the larger baby? I think of sapiens men being socially bolder than Neanderthal men for some reason.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:37 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hey, baby... I just invented the alphabet, and I put you and me right next to each other.
posted by XMLicious at 1:39 PM on October 23, 2014


I think it's natural to assume the other way around, but wouldn't a female Neanderthal have a more robust body, larger birth canal to accommodate the larger baby?

I think it's that human women had already evolved most of what was necessary to deal with human babies' enormous skulls.
posted by bleep at 1:40 PM on October 23, 2014


Many Slavic men (myself included) have a tendency to develop enormously bushy eyebrows and hair in places where it seems to be unnecessary. Now I know why.

#AllMenOver40
posted by srboisvert at 1:46 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hey, y'all should stop talking about "Neanderthals vs humans." They were Homo sapiens too! Just Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. Talking about "neanderthals vs sapiens" is of course accurate as long as you remember it's the second "sapiens" in "Homo sapiens sapiens."
posted by edheil at 1:56 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's fascinating that the neanderthal genes were once grouped together in much longer sequences. I wonder if that would change the way they're expressed.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:00 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying this report is untrue, but I've read "The Mismeasure of Man" about peudoscience in the 19th and early 20th centuries, where racists tried to claim significant genetic differences between the races (i.e. the varieties) of humanity, and no matter what it was, it seemed it invariably proved that whites were superior to orientals, who were in turn superior to negroes.

Sure as shooting, someone is going to say:
1. Neanderthals were only found in Europe.
2. Cromagnon/Neanderthal hybridization only took place in Europe,
and thus, 3. Europeans are genetically superior to any other humans.

Which is a crock, but it's going to happen.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:03 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, not everyone, IGTLP. If you are of pure sub-Saharan descent, you won't have any.
posted by tavella at 2:03 PM on October 23, 2014


Neanderthals were found in Europe, the Middle East and central Asia, or at least that's where scientists have found remains. Their actual range was probably bigger than that. But it does seem like they were most highly concentrated in Europe, or at least that's where the last neanderthals lived, after the others had already gone extinct.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:10 PM on October 23, 2014


Early humans interbred with Neanderthals.

Of course they did. Anyone who saw the final episode of Battlestar Galactica knows that.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:11 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


i guess Elijah Mohammed was right... more or less.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:31 PM on October 23, 2014


sobarel: "(assuming we're all Homo sapiens reading this)"

i am a cat
posted by invitapriore at 3:32 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Here's an excellent talk (youtube) by Svante Paabo about how they did the genetic analysis and what it revealed about migrations and differences between humans and Neandertals. It's fascinating, and it answers a lot of the questions that have been posed in this thread.
posted by antinomia at 3:50 PM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


Cool link, antinomia! Svante Paabo starts talking at about 6:12, for those who want to skip the introduction.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:54 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hey, y'all should stop talking about "Neanderthals vs humans." They were Homo sapiens too!

But which was the shy boy, and which was the coy boy?
posted by jason_steakums at 4:01 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have a bad feeling that now that it looks like (as the article puts it) "non-Africans" are part Neanderthal, Neanderthals are going to be idolized by racists.
You know who else is idolized by racists?

A: Who the fuck cares
posted by Flunkie at 4:11 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, in the YouTube video Paabo says that Asians tend to have more Neanderthal DNA than Europeans.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:29 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


And there's probably 20%-40% of the Neanderthal genome floating around in the modern human population today. Which is to say that any particular human probably only has 1.5% or so neanderthal genes in their personal DNA, but if you could extract that fraction from everybody alive right now, you could recreate about 20-40% of an individual neanderthal's DNA. But it would be broken up into tiny little pieces and jumbled around thanks to thousands of years of recombination.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:39 PM on October 23, 2014


...but you fuck one Neanderthal...
posted by The Tensor at 4:46 PM on October 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


Many Slavic men (myself included) have a tendency to develop enormously bushy eyebrows and hair in places where it seems to be unnecessary.

I am intrigued. Where did your ancillary eyebrows grow? (I'm picturing enormously bushy, unnecessary eyebrows kind of arranged along your stomach, almost like dog tits. But it's a disturbing image and I hope I'm wrong.)
posted by five fresh fish at 4:51 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sorry, one more comment on the YouTube video (it's really cool). At about 37:15 Paabo summarizes the current understanding of how humans and our earlier cousin species spread out of Africa and into the world.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:51 PM on October 23, 2014


I read the other day that about 10% of out DNA has viral ancestry. I expect we'll discover that the sapien bit of us is a very, very small component of our DNA.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:52 PM on October 23, 2014


if you could extract that fraction from everybody alive right now, you could recreate about 20-40% of an individual neanderthal's DNA
It must be far more than that, no? I mean, we have like 94% genetic similarity with chimps; 20% to 40% is more like, I dunno, how much of the sea cucumber genome we have, isn't it? We must have like 99.9% similarity with Neanderthals, not (an upper limit of all of us combined of) 20% to 40%.

So I'm guessing that "20% to 40% of the Neanderthal genome" is really "20% to 40% of the very very small portion of the Neanderthal genome that is different than the Subsaharan genome" or something like that.
posted by Flunkie at 4:54 PM on October 23, 2014


I'm not sure, but that might be the case. He seems to be saying that 1.5% or so can be identified as originating from neanderthals, so it would make sense that he's not counting DNA that's identical.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:59 PM on October 23, 2014


Life's complicated.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:02 PM on October 23, 2014


Wonderfully so!
posted by Kevin Street at 5:26 PM on October 23, 2014


I think it's that human women had already evolved most of what was necessary to deal with human babies' enormous skulls.

I am unsure about babies, but adult Neanderthals had a larger average cranial capacity than Sapiens (1600 cm^3 vs 1400 cm^3).

Which I guess goes to show brains ain't everything.
posted by fings at 8:23 PM on October 23, 2014


This was a really interesting article. However, I'm pretty sure about 10% of my DNA is actually cheese.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:24 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Quest for Fire was right?

Ever had that feeling about redheads? Turns out they are cannibals!
posted by Meatbomb at 2:32 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ah, hello. May I take this opportunity of emphasizing that there is no cannibalism among my fellow redheads. Absolutely none, and when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount, more than we are prepared to admit, but if you know a redhead and wake up in the morning and find any toothmarks at all anywhere on your body, you are to tell me immediately so that I can immediately take every measure to hush the whole thing up.
posted by kyrademon at 6:57 AM on October 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


If someone today has Neanderthal mtdna, wouldn't we just presume that it was normal homo sapiens sapiens mtdna? The only way we would know differently is if we happened to sequence a Neanderthal genome with the same mtdna, and even then we might just assume it was an early hybrid.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:54 AM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]




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