Posted by: fireandstone | May 7, 2010

Enter Neanderthal

So I’ve been on an extended hiatus, but life is life, and life > blog. But a bit of mind blowing news ended up in my inbox today that set my gears in motion. A team led by the department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology published the results of a project to sequence the entire Neanderthal genome and compare it to a sample of modern humans. Surprising to many, 1-4% of the genetic material of the human samples outside of sub-Saharan Africa derived from the Neanderthal genome. The widespread existence of the genetic material indicates that the earliest human groups leaving Africa interbred with Neanderthal populations before further diverging throughout Eurasia. Here’s the published research:

Now most people, even those excited and interested by the news, aren’t going to touch it with a hundred foot pole because there are just too many unsettling conclusions and potential political consequences that might result from the now necessary admission that non-superficial variation exists among modern humans, one of those conclusions touching on another post I made recently. I won’t beat that one to death, but suffice it to say that this new revelation nicely bolsters the argument that healthy dietary patterns have a necessary ancestral component.

Is a 1-4% genetic contribution from a related hominin species anything to get worked up about beyond simple amusement? It depends on exactly *what* was contributed of course, but to put it in perspective it’s also well known the degree to which we share genetic relation to the chimpanzee (which  incidentally was used as a reference genome in the study) and our respective dietary patterns, and the physical adaptations that underlie those patterns, are not in any way merely superficial.

Besides the fact that it’s incredibly cool to know that I’m part Neanderthal, not much else can be said about this story, but I assume that since we now have a complete Neanderthal genome map and some incredible upfront results to point to, that subsequent studies will be able to ask more and more specific questions about that relationship, and I most definitely look forward to reading, pondering and writing on the results of those studies.



  1. This discovery doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I recently started reading a fascinating book called Them + Us How Neanderthal Predation Created Modern Humans, by Danny Vendramini.

    His premise is that we weren’t at the top of the food chain and that Neanderthal predation, including sexual predation, is a key factor in how we became what we are.

    Regardless of what people may or may not want, we are what we are, and I am always eager to discover some new puzzle-piece in reality that sheds light on how we became what we are.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: