Saturday, May 08, 2010

Neanderthal and Proud

I was pleased to read that in most humans, up to 4% of our DNA is Neanderthal. A comparison of the genomes of humans and Neanderthals reveals that most people living outside Africa can trace up to 4% of their DNA to a Neanderthal origin, a consequence of interbreeding between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens after humans left Africa.

(I'm taking this from this article in The Guardian)

Modern humans and Neanderthals shared a common ancestor but parted company in the evolutionary line some 350,000 years ago. But as a result of subsequent interbreeding, around 60,000 years ago in the Middle East, between 1% and 4% of the DNA in modern Europeans and Asians was inherited from Neanderthals.

I like this. I have sometimes felt sorry for the Neanderthals. They were intelligent. They used tools, and their brains were as large as those of Homo Sapiens. And they made it through millions of years of evolution all the way to only 30,000 years ago, before dying out.

It can't have been much fun, knowing that your species was dying out, and watching it happen, while Homo Sapiens took over. I had a sad image of the last Neanderthal left, feeling very lonely, unable even to find another Neanderthal to talk to.

But this news makes it not so bad. If there was some interbreeding, the last Neanderthal might well have got himself a nice Homo Sapien girlfriend, and passed on his genes. So it wasn't all tragic loss.

Yes, I can definitely feel some Neanderthal inside me.

Neanderthals were shorter than modern humans, with strong cranial features. They were powerful, robust and suited to cold climates. A study suggests some Neanderthals may have had red hair and pale skin.

Well, that sounds like the Scots, actually. I wonder if Neanderthals had also had strong accents and drank too much? Maybe I'm more than 4% Neanderthal. I feel this might explain some things.


  1. or perhaps the last Neanderthal was a really hot red head girl, real trophy wife of one at that.

  2. Yep. It helps explain a lot of what we call Neanderthal behaviour. Regressing to our primitive ways...especially afer a few too many beers.

    Buffy: Buffy want beer.
    Giles: You can't have beer.
    Buffy: WANT. BEER.
    Xander: Giles, don't make caveslayer unhappy.

  3. I like that idea. Maybe the last Neanderthal was the hottest woman in town, desired by all.

    Thanks for that quote Nick, Nick, I always liked Buffy's beer-regression.

  4. Of course what remains unsaid here is that white people are descended from Neanderthals and black ( from Africa ) people are not.


  5. Read some books by Stan Gooch! He's a scientist who's convinced that pretty much every good part of being human came from the Neanderthals. He's regarded as a loony, of course, but it's turning out he may have had a point.

  6. Anonymous7:22 pm

    This comes at the right time, explaining the benefits some people get out of paleo diet, while others don't.
    Am I Neanderthal? My digestive tract proves it!
    I thrive on animal fats, nuts and raw veggies, while fruit, grains and milk make me sick.
    This discovery is only the tip of the iceberg. Modern-Western diet, is giving Millions of people cancer. How did the Neanderthal went extinct? By getting a wife that was cooking the wrong food.