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Science

Neanderthals and Humans Diverged 660K Years Ago 128

Posted by kdawson
from the big-chests-big-brains-you-do-the-math dept.
Death Metal Maniac writes "The team analyzed the DNA of 13 genes from Neanderthal mitochondria and found they were distinctly different from modern humans, suggesting Neanderthals never, or rarely, interbred with early humans. The genetic material shows that a Neanderthal 'Eve' lived around 660,000 years ago, when the species last shared a common ancestor with humans. Neanderthal brains were on average larger than those of modern humans."
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Neanderthals and Humans Diverged 660K Years Ago

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  • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Friday August 08, 2008 @12:30PM (#24527271)

    Actually it's the ratio of brain to body mass [wikipedia.org] that really matters. Neaderthals may have had a slightly higher range of brain mass (not much [wikipedia.org]) but they were much more massive creatures. And Neanderthals DEFINITELY had fires, and probably even rudimentary religious or spiritual beliefs. That does not a civilization make, but they are within our same species most agree.

  • by swid27 (869237) on Friday August 08, 2008 @12:46PM (#24527559) Homepage

    Since the summary didn't mention it (but TFA did), this is a big deal since unlike previous Neanderthal DNA analysis [isogg.org], this is the first time anyone's published a complete mitochondrial DNA sequence.

    The sequence has 206 differences from the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence [wikipedia.org], which is about double the number of differences ever found in any modern human.

    The authors believe they can extract enough uncontaminated autosomal and sex chromosome DNA have the rest of the genome done sometime next year.

  • I might be silly.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Friday August 08, 2008 @01:01PM (#24527807) Homepage
    Or perhaps I'm thinking "romatically", but I seriously believe that stories of trolls are the last vestiges of memory of the interaction between humans and Neanderthals. The whole meme just seems to fit so well with the established evidence. This, of course, does not mean a truth - but some part of me wants to believe it is. Perhaps looking at ancient stories from northern societies about trolls or troll-like creatures might provide some insight into their behavior and primitive society. (Matrilineal, etc). Course if wishes were ponies, I'd be up to my eyeballs in manure.
  • Not just that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Friday August 08, 2008 @01:23PM (#24528217) Journal

    Not just that, but it's sorta funny when you look at the mitochondrial DNA (inherited strictly from the mother) vs Y chromosome mutations (inherited strictly from the father) for any human invasions or migrations, all the way to the earliest tribes. Invariably you can track the Y chromosome mutations sweeping across the land with the invasion, but the mitochondrial DNA tends to lag behind or even stay put.

    Virtually all migrations and invasions _fucked_ their way across a continent. They displaced or killed the males, but then proceeded to "recycle" the newly widdowed women.

    It makes sense too, since for most of human history females had a life expectancy of about 2/3 that of men. Birth and birth complications took a pretty heavy toll. So there'd be a steady supply of widdowed men who are still young and horny. You know, given that their life expectancy wasn't high enough to reach andropause. That was in fact a major cause of tribal warfare, and as late as ancient Rome and Greece we find it documented that getting women was an integral part of warfare.

    The Romans, for example, demanded women from the defeated Teutones in IIRC 102 BC, in an infamous episode remembered mostly because the german women killed their children and commited suicide rather than comply. They first begged to be at least used to tend the temples of Ceres and Vesta instead, but the Romans refused, and the rest is history.

    So indeed it would be mighty peculiar if the same pattern didn't apply to Neanderthals. The offspring must have been sterile or non-viable.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday August 08, 2008 @01:46PM (#24528679) Journal
    it would be interesting to clone this guy. I suspect that we will find more neanderthal material down the road that we can re-create enough of their DNA to make it possible. The hard part is that it would have to be done by a private enterprise. Few govs. would allow this to happen.

"The chain which can be yanked is not the eternal chain." -- G. Fitch

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