View Full Version : Neanderthal genes in our midst?
06-21-2001, 03:30 PM
I recall the TLC series on the dawn of man stating that they found a homo sapiens/neanderthal hybrid skeleton in a cave in France not too long ago. Is there any further evidence of neanderthal genes existing in present day humans? (This might explain the guy who works in the office down the hall :eek:.)
06-21-2001, 03:55 PM
What exactly do you mean by "Neandrathal genes"?
You share lots of genes with lots of things. In fact, a large proportion of you genome is made up of what is apparently an ancient virus whose RNA somehow became intertangled with our own as exons or ignored genetic material. Outside of that, lots of organisms, includign sea slugs, make the protein colagen, as you do. It does not mean that your mom had sex with a sea slug.
Could you clarify your question.
06-21-2001, 04:23 PM
Yes, I guess the phrasing is unclear. I'm not well versed in the field of anthroplogy, but here's what I gathered from this series. While homo sapiens won the battle for dominance against neanderthal man,which I took to be a seperate and distict species of human, there seems to have been some cross breeding and the implication was that some present day people may carry traces of the neanderthal genetic information. I realize that much human genetic material is shared with other animal and plant species, but isn't it possible to track this sort of cross breeding, otherwise how would the scientists have determined that the skeleton was a homo sapiens/neanderthal cross breed in the first place?
06-21-2001, 05:01 PM
1) There is by no means any agreement that that skeleton you are talking about is realy a homo sapiens/neanderthal hybrid. The arguement that it is is based not on genetics but that it looks like one. This is problematic because it is a child's skeleton, which can look funky anyway, and there is a high degree of subjectivity in "looks like". (although the experts aren't completly talking out of there ass here. There is a valid, and important, scientific arguement here that will go on until more evidence is uncovered.)
2) Even if this particular skull represents a homo sapiens/neanderthal hybrid, that tells us nothing about frequency. This could have been a freak occurance that happened a couple hundred times over the milennia and just happened to be preserved or it could have been something that happened constantly. We just don't have enough information to make any sort of authoritative statement, and any show that attempts to do is is suspect.
3) To the best of my knowledge, we have no fragments of neanderthal genes of any kind, so no direct comparisons can be made.
06-21-2001, 06:00 PM
I don't know that one can say we have no traces of neanderthal genes since we don't know what the neanderthal genome looks like since they disappeared many thousands of years before DNA sequencing came to be. We are just beginning to find out roughly where/what our genes are with the human genome project, but I'd say that 99% of their origins and evolutionary sources are still a complete mystery as far as having a definative answer goes. I saw the TLC show too, and have certainly seen several people in real life who look a lot more like the models and drawings of neanderthals than the guy on the cover of GQ. When you consider how perverted supposedly "sophisticated and civilized" modern-day humans can be as far as breeding with relatives or even other species goes (check any adult sites lately?), it doesn't seem at all out of the question that different kinds of cavemen/women may have slept around a bit before the church was invented and told them it was bad.
06-21-2001, 06:04 PM
whoops! just realized I miss-read #3 on the previous post, in which case I agree with it in the sense that we don't know what the neanderthal genome looked like - so we can't say we share some of it... we also can't deny it either.
06-21-2001, 06:24 PM
Recent analyses of the mitochondrial DNA of Neandertals (http://www.accessexcellence.com/WN/SUA10/neander797.html) appears to indicate that we (modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens) and they are on quite separate evolutionary branches. That is, the genetic differences between all modern human populations are much less than those between Neandertals and us.
The Multi-Regional Hypothesis for the evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens postulates that Neadertals contributed to the ancestry of European populations, while archaic humans in Asian were ancestral to modern Asians, etc. This idea appears to have be decisively refuted by the mtDNA work.
However, the possibility that Neandertals could have contributed some genes to the nuclear genome of modern humans has not yet been entirely eliminated. While it seems to be unlikely, this possibility is still open.
06-21-2001, 07:56 PM
Originally posted by threemae
...a large proportion of you genome is made up of what is apparently an ancient virus whose RNA somehow became intertangled with our own as exons or ignored genetic material.
Just to be picky, it was viral DNA, not RNA, that got into our genome since RNA isn't inherited, and the word "exon" specifically refers to gene sequences that are expressed. Remember, exons are expressed and introns intervene between exons.
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