Could Neanderthal genes be lurking in the pool?

Are there any anthropologists, archaeologists and/or geneticists here? (I’m none of these)

As far as I know (which isn’t far), the Neanderthals co-existed with Homo Sapiens for quite a while. So it seems highly likely that they intermarried (I think there is some slightly controversial evidence for this in the remains of the ‘Lapedo Boy’ found in Portugal a few years ago). If so, could some characteristics of Neanderthals still be found in us?

I’m not so much interested in physical traits (some Oxford scientist recently said that red hair could be due to a Neanderthal gene) but psychological ones. Could some aspects of the ‘Neanderthal mind’ be found in the modern mind?

I’d be very interested in your ideas, though I doubt whether I could make much of a contribution to the thread, as I don’t know anything more…

Um… how, pray tell, do we determine what a “neanderthal mind” might be like?

Much less whether or not any of us might have one? Or a fragment of one?

If you’re ever in Australia I’ll introduce you to my brother. That should put any speculation to rest.

It’s possible. Some bones have been discovered that, due to their unusual shapes and sizes, have led some archaeologists and anthropologists to suggest that interbreeding between Cro-Magnons and Neandertals did happen, at least on a limited scale. I think this is the ‘Lapedo Boy’ you’re referring to, and yes, there still is a bit of controversy. Some scholars have suggested that a half-Neandertal baby might be so large as to kill a Cro-Magnon mother in childbirth, and that the two species might have found each other “ugly” enough to discourage cross-breeding.

There could be vestiges of the Neandertal mind, or Paleo-lithic mind, if you prefer. Some have suggested a theory that the reason why women are better at remembering where things are located then men are is because women were gatherers who had to remember where sources of food were located, whereas men, the hunters, just had to look around for a herd and chase it.

There is a whole school of thought based on evolutionary psychology, which suggests that our instincts, ingrained by thousands of generations of hunter-gathering lifetyle has left definate imprints on our social behavior. This school of thought finds explanations for a huge array of modern human behavior in the way our ancestors adapted to their struggles.

Neandertal and Cro-Magnon are accepted as separate species, not phenotypes of the same species. It’s quite possible that if offspring between the two was possible that the offspring would have been “mules,” unable to produce any progeny of their own. There seems to be no evidence to suggest that there was ever any major “blending” of Neandertal with Cro-Magnon. It is a more probable scenario that the more “advanced” Cro-Magnon wiped out their Neandertal counterparts - kind of an early example of ethnic cleansing or genocide.

C’mon, some people call Resident Bush “chimp” but we all know his Neanderthal traiys are just a wee bit less recessive than in other, more nearly normal humans.

R.A. Lafferty wrote an SF novel a couple of decades ago speculating that Neanderthal genes survived called “The Devil Is Dead.” Unfortunately, it was his usual highly stylized work.

OK, I don’t have any actual useful info here …

Lissa, re: Neanderthals and CroMags thinking each other are too ugly to mate-- were they really that different, lookswise? I’ve seen some butt-ugly Homo sapiens find mates, and hominids are notoriously polymorphously perverse, so I hardly think something as insignificant as facial features would stop a mating.

I think it’s likely that the Neanderthals and CroMags integrated with other closely related Homo genus hominids, and what we are now is an amalgam that we call Homo sapiens. Just my theory, anyway.

Mind you, there’s no evidence at all that the Cro-Magnons waged war against, or even occasionally fought, Neanderthals. More likely the Neanderthals simply lost a more subtle battle, the Darwinian battle for resources.

There’s evidence that the Neaderthals had art and religion, so we share at least those aspects of “the Neaderthal mind” with them. :slight_smile:

Here’s a BBC page with an article and links:

The theory that Neanderthals and homo sapiens interbred, while not ruled out, doesn’t seem to be very popular with the scientists these days. Especially since they managed to sequence some Neanderthal DNA (how cool is that?) and found it was quite different than human DNA.

There are at the least, persistent rumors of neanderthal/human interbreeding:
Neanderthal interbreeding “homo sapiens”
The latest I’ve heard is the discovery of the peculiar fossil skeleton of a 3 year old child in Portugal. If I recall correctly, someone also came out with some DNA evidence, but it’s not conclusive.
The question of whether some humans retain neanderthal characteristics, either physical or mental, is still in the realm of speculation, but maybe it won’t be for much longer.

-not an anthropologist, paleontologist and/or geneticist.

Neandertals had heavier facial structures, backward-sloping foreheads, receeding chins, and were likely shorter than their Cro-Magnon counterparts. Neandertal women had heavier bone structure than the Cro-Magnon * men * posessed. They were barrel-chested, and most likely, very strong. They were generally a bit more “apelike” than Cro-Magnons, and suggestions have been made that their speech could have been somewhat limited due to the structure of their throats and vocal chords. Cro-Magnons most likely looked much like we do, a bit shorter and hairier, maybe. (Some scholars believe that hariness was a trait which was sexually-selected against: women didn’t like hairy men quite as much, and thus, we lost a lot of our body hair.) So, it’s very possible that Cro-Magnons would have found Neandertals “ugly,” just as Neandertals may have found our bulging foreheads, more delicate facial features and lighter bones to be unattractive.

But you’re right: love makes a beauty out of anyone. It’s entirely possible that a Neandertal and Cro-Magnon found themselves passionate for one another, and mated, producing hybrid offspring.

However, due to the evidence that we have that the two species warred, we can assume that one found the other inferior. This may be the beginning of racism. The two lovers may have found themselves to be social outcasts, because of species xenophobia.

Lissa, we don’t actually have any evidence that the two species warred. Only two clear-cut examples of hominid-inflicted wounds on Neanderthal skeletons have been found, and those injuries may very well have been caused by other Neanderthals:

However, there is some evidence that some Neanderthals, well, ate other Neanderthals:

(Though good ol’ homo sapiens has been known to indulge in this sort of behavior as well.)

Some scholars have speculated the relatively rapid decline of Neandertals once Cro-Magnons arrived on the scene suggests some kind of conflict. Neandertals ruled for hundreds of thousands of years, and then suddenly vanish in a relatively brief time without dramatic climate change which usually accompanies extinction. They also seem to have vanished world-wide in a short time frame, rather than a gradual decline, which, if it were a natural die-off would have taken somewhat longer.

So, what happened? Their traditional sources of food were still there, and there’s no evidence as of yet of a plague of any type. Some see the only explanation in turf warfare.

One theory is that perhaps Cro-Magnons chased them away from hunting grounds, leading to a starvation of the Neandertal populations, and some suggest out-and-out genocide, with Cro-Magnons attempting to rid themselves of any competition for food and resources.

Fossilization is somewhat rare, and the examples of Neandertals that we have are somewhat few given what their peak popluation must have been. The bodies of (possibly) massacred Neandertals could have been destroyed by natural decomposition, or perhaps burned by the Cro-Magnons. It’s all speculation.

Thru DNA or any other evidence do we know if it was POSSIBLE they could have sucsessfully(sp?) bred?

What was the geographical range of the neanderthals?

This would explain the cast of 'The Sopranos".

Even if we could get a complete genome from Neanderthal remains (difficult at best with current technology) I’m not sure we’re at a point where we could look at that and say “Yes, we could interbreed”

Horses, donkeys, and zebras can crossbreed with each other despite very different numbers of chromosomes in their respective species (although, yes, the offspring are sterile) We know it’s possible because it happens, not because we can look at the genes and determine from those that it is possible.

Given that there’s only a 2% or less gene difference between us and chimps, and Neantherals were presumably even more similar, it can’t be ruled out.

Given that H. sapiens has been known to fornicate not only with other members of the species but also goats, dogs, sheep, and other distantly related creatures, I’d guess that sex occurred, at least in the form of rape when one tribe came into open conflict with another. Also possible between two romantically (and deviant) individuals of the two groups. The only question in my mind is would such a union produce offspring?

Europe, more or less.

Wait a minute… if in fact the Cro-Magnon did attack the Neaderthals, why didn’t we lose? Unless I’m mistaken, our technology levels were on similar levels, and the Cro-Magnon population was equal or smaller than the Neanderthals. On top of that, the Neanderthals are stronger than us, which is a very key aspect of untrained hand-to-hand combat.

What’re theories on how we would have won?

I’m surprised no one mentioned this:

Thanks for the replies…

I’d agree with Rubystreak and Broomstick that the appearance of Neanderthals would hardly have been a barrier to interbreeding, since present day humans (men at any rate) seem willing to mate with anything possessing vaguely appropriate genitals.

The DNA evidence that Neanderthals were quite different genetically seems more compelling - thanks for the links - but it’s not conclusive, scientists appear to be arguing about the extent of the differences between Neanderthals and humans compared with diffs between modern humans. Also, how big a DNA difference is too big for interbreeding?

Speaker for the Dead’s point echoes the question I’m interested in…why did the Neanderthals get wiped out considering they were bigger and stronger etc - it has to be something to do with intelligence. Neanderthals had art and culture, and tools, so what was it they lacked? What sort of cognitive abilities do humans have that they didn’t?

Did you read the link I provided? I’m not asserting this is a sure thing, but Oxford University, I think we’d all agree, is a fairly prestigious institution. And I get a kick out of seeing freckle-faced redheads and thinking to myself “you’re part Neanderthal.” <g>

As for your second question, maybe it had to do with the combination of size and some kind of environmental change. It’s not always better to be bigger and stronger–look at the dinosaurs, for example. If times are lean, it just might be better to be smaller and need less food to keep going. The crafty Homo Sapiens might’ve slipped in and grabbed scraps here and there instead of having to compete with other big predators. Just speculating…