Tag Archives | Neanderthals

Sex With Neanderthals Forever Changed Homo Sapiens

There’s now little doubt that modern day humans, homo sapiens, are partly Neanderthal. From skin disorders to the immune system, sex with archaic species changed Homo sapiens reports Nature:

Our ancestors were not a picky bunch. Overwhelming genetic evidence shows that Homo sapiens had sex with Neander­thals, Denisovans and other archaic relatives. Now researchers are using large genomics studies to unravel the decidedly mixed contributions that these ancient romps made to human biology — from the ability of H. sapiens to cope with environments outside Africa, to the tendency of modern humans to get asthma, skin diseases and maybe even depression.

Neanderthal Mother (detail of diorama)

The proportion of the human genome that comes from archaic relatives is small. The genomes of most Europeans and Asians are 2–4% Neanderthal1, with Denisovan DNA making up about 5% of the genomes of Mela­nesians2 and Aboriginal Australians3. DNA slivers from other distant relatives probably pepper a variety of human genomes4.

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Neanderthals Created Jewelry

Yet more evidence that Neanderthals were far from the dullards they’ve been made out to be, this time via an academic research paper entitled “Evidence for Neandertal Jewelry: Modified White-Tailed Eagle Claws at Krapina” by Davorka Radovčić, Ankica Oros Sršen, Jakov Radovčić and David W. Frayer, published at PLOS one:

We describe eight, mostly complete white-tailed eagle (Haliaëtus [Haliaeetus] albicilla) talons from the Krapina Neandertal site in present-day Croatia, dating to approximately 130 kyrs ago.

Fig 1. Krapina 385.1, a right talon 2. Three cut marks are preserved on the lateral surface: (a) a short superior cut mark; (b) a long cut mark interrupted by the foramen; (c) a short inferior mark. Edges of most cut marks are not sharp. An abraded area (d) occurs near the proximal edge of the joint. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0119802.g001

Fig 1. Krapina 385.1, a right talon 2.
Three cut marks are preserved on the lateral surface: (a) a short superior cut mark; (b) a long cut mark interrupted by the foramen; (c) a short inferior mark. Edges of most cut marks are not sharp. An abraded area (d) occurs near the proximal edge of the joint.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0119802.g001

Four talons bear multiple, edge-smoothed cut marks; eight show polishing facets and/or abrasion. Three of the largest talons have small notches at roughly the same place along the plantar surface, interrupting the proximal margin of the talon blade.

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Neanderthals Created Cave Art

A new discovery at Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar suggests that Neanderthals were, contrary to their poor reputation, cave artists (and created the hashtag). Report via Chicago Tribune:

Belying their reputation as the dumb cousins of early modern humans, Neanderthals created cave art, an activity regarded as a major cognitive step in the evolution of humankind, scientists reported Monday in a paper describing the first discovery of artwork by this extinct species.

Gorham's Cave.jpg

Gorham’s Cave. Photo by Gibmetal77 (CC)

The discovery is “a major contribution to the redefinition of our perception of Neanderthal culture,” said prehistorian William Rendu of the French National Center for Scientific Research, who was not involved in the work. “It is a new and even stronger evidence of the Neanderthal capacity for developing complex symbolic thought” and “abstract expression,” abilities long believed exclusive to early modern humans.

In recent years researchers have discovered that Neanderthals buried their dead, adorned themselves with black and red pigments, wore shell and feather jewelry and cared for the elderly and infirm, all evidence of complex thought.

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‘Mixed’ Neanderthal-Like Lineage Revealed in Ancient Skulls

Picture: Rawansari (CC)

Picture: Rawansari (CC)

Nobody wants third-hand teeth…

A key first step in Neanderthal evolution may have been the development of front teeth that could act like a “third hand,” researchers now say.

These new findings are based on 17 hominin skulls showing a mix of traits from Neanderthals and more primitive human lineages, dating back some 430,000 years. The specimens likely belonged to a hominin group within the Neanderthal lineage but perhaps not direct Neanderthal ancestors. (Hominins include modern humans and extinct ancestors and close relatives of the human lineage.)

The mix of traits suggests the defining features of the Neanderthal body may have evolved separately in stages instead of evolving together gradually, scientists added.

via Ancient Skulls Reveal ‘Mixed’ Neanderthal-Like Lineage.

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You’re A Neanderthal

Neanderthal childWell at least you are part Neanderthal, reports Reuters:

It’s getting harder and harder to take umbrage if someone calls you a Neanderthal.

According to two studies published on Wednesday, DNA from these pre-modern humans may play a role in the appearance of hair and skin as well as the risk of certain diseases.

Although Neanderthals became extinct 28,000 years ago in Europe, as much as one-fifth of their DNA has survived in human genomes due to interbreeding tens of thousands of years ago, one of the studies found, although any one individual has only about 2 percent of caveman DNA.

“The 2 percent of your Neanderthal DNA might be different than my 2 percent of Neanderthal DNA, and it’s found at different places in the genome,” said geneticist Joshua Akey, who led one of the studies. Put it all together in a study of hundreds of people, and “you can recover a substantial proportion of the Neanderthal genome.”

Both studies confirmed earlier findings that the genomes of east Asians harbor more Neanderthal DNA than those of Europeans.

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Neanderthal Bone May Push Back Development of Complex Speech

Pic: Yulia S. (CC)

Pic: Yulia S. (CC)

New research seems to suggest that the Neanderthals could speak as well as modern humans.

Via BBC News:

An analysis of a Neanderthal’s fossilised hyoid bone – a horseshoe-shaped structure in the neck – suggests the species had the ability to speak.

This has been suspected since the 1989 discovery of a Neanderthal hyoid that looks just like a modern human’s.

But now computer modelling of how it works has shown this bone was also used in a very similar way.

Writing in journal Plos One, scientists say its study is “highly suggestive” of complex speech in Neanderthals.

The hyoid bone is crucial for speaking as it supports the root of the tongue. In non-human primates, it is not placed in the right position to vocalise like humans.

Read the rest of this story at BBC News.

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Genetic Analysis Suggests Ancient Humans Interbred Extensively Neanderthals, Denisovans And An “Unknown Population”

neanderthalNature hints that modern humans have a mysterious X factor ancestor:

Genome analysis suggests there was interbreeding between modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and an unknown archaic population. Updated genome sequences from two extinct relatives of modern humans suggest that these ‘archaic’ groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known.

The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a member of an archaic human group called the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November at a meeting on ancient DNA at the Royal Society in London. The results suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet-unknown human ancestor from Asia.

All modern humans whose ancestry originates outside of Africa owe about 2% of their genome to Neanderthals. Certain populations living in Oceania, such as Papua New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals, share about 4% of their DNA with Denisovans.

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Neanderthals Ate Stomach Contents Of Dead Animals (Tastes Like Cream Cheese)

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Apparently the stomach contents of dead animals tastes like cream cheese. I may have to seek something else to spread on my bagels from now on… Robin McKie reports on the real diet of Neanderthals for The Observer:

It was the tell-tale tartar on the teeth that told the truth. Or at least, that is what it appeared to do. Researchers – after studying calcified plaque on Neanderthal fossil teeth found in El Sidrón cave in Spain – last year concluded that members of this extinct human species cooked vegetables and consumed bitter-tasting medicinal plants such as chamomile and yarrow.

These were not brainless carnivores, in other words. These were smart and sensitive people capable of providing themselves with balanced diets and of treating themselves with health-restoring herbs, concluded the researchers, led by Karen Hardy at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona.

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Surrogate Mother Needed For World’s First Cloned Neanderthal Baby

Would you be willing to give birth to a cloned Neanderthal (soon to be a possibility)? And could you love him/her? Gawker writes:

Are you an adventurous human woman? Adventurous enough to be a surrogate mother for the first Neanderthal baby to be born in 30,000 years? Harvard geneticist George Church recently [said] he’s close to developing the necessary technology to clone a Neanderthal, at which point all he’d need is an “adventurous human woman” to act as a surrogate mother.

What would that entail? Neanderthal birth was simpler than human birth, because Neanderthal infants didn’t have to rotate to get to the birth canal, but otherwise the processes were very similar. Once the baby’s out, you’re in good shape — Neanderthal babies are thought to have grown much more quickly than their human counterparts.

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Neanderthals May Have Been Sailors

Picture: Rawansari (CC)

It’s amazing to me to see how our perceptions of the Neanderthals have changed over the last 200 years, give or take. Once thought to be brutish, slow creatures, we now know that they had art, burial rituals, language and possibly even religion. Now, some scientists think that they may have been sailors as well – thousands of years before such things were thought to have occurred:

Via Live Science:

Neanderthals and other extinct human lineages might have been ancient mariners, venturing to the Mediterranean islands thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

This prehistoric seafaring could shed light on the mental capabilities of these lost relatives of modern humans, researchers say.

Scientists had thought the Mediterranean islands were first settled about 9,000 years ago by Neolithic or New Stone Age farmers and shepherds.

“On a lot of Mediterranean islands, you have these amazing remains from classical antiquity to study, so for many years people didn’t even look for older sites,” said archaeologist Alan Simmons at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

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