Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Neanderthals and Humans Diverged 660K Years Ago

Comments Filter:
  • by Petersko (564140) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:08AM (#24526777)
    "when the species last shared a common ancestor with humans"

    It seems to me that if they shared a common ancestor at any point, they'd always share a common ancestor.
    • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:24AM (#24527127)

      I think they mean "last" as in last point in time. My brother and I have a common ancestor in my maternal grandfather, for example, but our "last shared" common ancestor would be our mother (or father).

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by corbettw (214229)

        My brother and I have a common ancestor in my maternal grandfather, for example, but our "last shared" common ancestor would be our mother (or father).

        Well, at least your mother. Maybe not your father(s).

        • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Friday August 08, 2008 @02:43PM (#24530693) Journal

          Oh come on. They probably had the same mailman for those two years.

          Neanderthals and Humans Diverged 660K Years Ago

          Odd, given the Earth is only 8000 years old and that Neanderthal (isn't it Neander t al now?) bones are planted by the Devil to deceive us.

          • That post may have been a little bad taste, doesn't deserve the troll marker though!

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by nhaines (622289)

            "Neanderthal" is German, and refers to Neander Valley. The spelling is historic and remains in Latin/scientific words and in English. Neander Valley is now spelled "Neandertal" in modern German and English. There is no /th/ sound in German, so the German pronounciation would be with a hard /t/ sound (and an 'ay' for the first e but that's picking nits).

            Neanderthal Man is the pervasive English spelling, it was originally "Neanderthaler" in German but is now similarly spelled "Neandertaler". As noted abov

        • and slightly scary point actually.

          Upwards of 10% of all children aren't biologically related to their (supposed) fathers. The book "Sperm Wars" has a brilliant treatment of this and much much more (too effing lazy to link, so use google or something).

      • ok, this is a study on michtochondrial DNA.. So if a Neanderthal impregnated Sapiens it wouldn't show.

        I went to a talk where a professor seems to have found evidence of a gene that "invaded" sapiens 6-60k years ago.. One of the genes known to tweak brain development. Anyway the gene managed to outcompete it's sapiens homologue (it's now 20 ish percent of the world population), not that anyone really knows what the advantage is..

        And no, their IQ's are no different than the normal.

        Storm

    • Well, since all life is presumably derived from a single-celled organism, everything has a common ancestor really.

      What the article was trying to say was something like the latest common ancestor or when they diverged, although I think you probably realize that and are picking at the semantics. And I'm up for sem antics.

      And since I guess its possible there are other species that diverged from either line after the split, it might not be quite correct to say "humans and neandertals diverged from each other..

      • Nothing really surprising here. The multi-regional hypothesis crowd will still complain that it's mtDNA, and not nuclear, and thus can be ignored, while for everyone else it simply bolsters the Out-of-Africa theory that the common ancestor of Neandertals and modern humans was H. erectus, and the Neandertal line spread throughout Eurasia, spending a few hundred thousand years there before modern human expansion out of Africa, for whatever reason, knocked them into extinction.

      • I think multiple genesis is far more likely than all life coming from one single-celled organism.

        • by samkass (174571)

          How do you explain the preponderance of right-handed sugars, then?

          • Two independent life forms could make the same right vs. left handed sugar choice with 50% odds. I find 1 in 20^64 magnitude odds more convincing: specifically the genetic code [rcn.com].

            All life just coincidentally decided that CAG was going to mean glutamine? And with the exception of a few codes in mitochondria and a few eukaryotes, the hypothetical multiple genesis also gave us random agreement on the meaning of 63 other codons? No. If every cell on Earth agrees on 55 out of 64 codes, and most agree on all 64, it's a very safe bet that their translation machinery was an inheritance from the same ancestor.

            • Or that is just how FSM made them.

            • Although, the likely explanation for that is that life was more uniformly distributed and at some point, the ones with the commonalities happened to out reproduce the others a little. It wouldn't even take all that much if it's a positive feedback, and the way living things "recycle" the bits of other living things they've eaten, it probably is. (i.e. it takes less energy to convert or filter if the food already contains the proteins you need in abundance)

              • All I'm refuting is the idea that there was no common ancestor to all the life we know of today. It's entirely possible that there were multiple genesis events but that our ancestral cells wiped out all the competition.

                I'd still bet against it, though. It seems like the "first mover" advantage would be too great; any potential competition would be eaten before it even got to the stage where genetic codes make sense.

        • It's not one single celled organism - it's one species of single celled organisms. This is never explicitly made clear when people refer to the last universal common ancestor - the term doesn't refer to an individual.
          • With horizontal gene transfer being as common in prokaryotes as it is, it seems more likely now that the root of the tree of life is probably a tangled bush of its own. It's quite likely that early single-celled organisms were swapping genes even across species lines (and remember, species tends to me something different when you're talking about a lot of prokaryotes).

        • Why? All the evidence from the basic genetic machinery itself suggests the exact opposite. There is no extant life form on this planet yet found that doesn't fit within a single tree. Admittedly the bottom of that tree is bush-like because of probable horizontal gene transfer, but you pretty much have to have similar genetic mechanisms for that to even work.

        • by Alsee (515537)

          I think multiple genesis is far more likely than all life coming from one single-celled organism.

          I think the four elements earth-air-fire-water is far more likely than the periodic table of elements.

          But all that proves is that I went to a lousy high school that failed to teach chemistry, or that I was home-schooled and my parents didn't know squat about chemistry.

          -

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        Well, since all life is presumably derived from a single-celled organism, everything has a common ancestor really.

        That's assuming that several different single celled organisms didn't come into existent and being to evolve independently (or that if they did, only the descendants of one still remain). I'm going to guess that if we have any hope of life being common in the universe, that in an environment as conducive to life as Earth, that life sprung up in several different locations.

    • ... when did they last SHARE that common ancestor? I would have had to be just before they swore off incest...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:09AM (#24526785)

    ...so easy, a caveman could do it!

    • Perhaps they were just a lot less violent than modern humans ?

      Gandhi, after all, got about 10 million people killed.

      • I can't agree with the second part of your post -- an all-out war with England could have resulted in absolute genocide for India, as in there would be no India or far fewer Indians today -- but I do have to agree with the first part. Just because they were more primitive doesn't mean they were more violent. As science has shown before, even our Stone Age ancestors might well not have been as violent as we are. Cooperation, as opposed to conflict, with spread out societies was to their advantage in trade fo

  • Best Buy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:09AM (#24526801) Homepage Journal

    The Neanderthal genes are alive and well and working in the consumer electronics department of your local Best Buy.

    • by zappepcs (820751)

      You beat me to it, though I'd have mentioned a couple other places as well. Most of them involve people who wear guns for their occupation (or tasers) but then, that's a given... isn't it?

    • Quoth the summary: "Neanderthal brains were on average larger than those of modern humans." I'm sure comparing them to those is insulting the Neanderthals ;)

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anne_Nonymous (313852)

        Size [washington.edu] isn't everything:

        adult human 1,300 - 1,400g
        sperm whale 7,800g
        fin whale 6,930g
        elephant 4,783g
        humpback whale 4,675g
        gray whale 4,317g
        killer whale 5,620g
        bowhead whale 2,738g
        pilot whale 2,670g
        bottle-nosed dolphin 1,500 - 1,600g

    • Don't forget the unfrozen caveman lawyer

      http://www.adequatulence.com/hartman/vault/pictures/caveman-lawyer.jpg [adequatulence.com]

      (couldn't find a video clip, NBC is militant about taking SNL clips down and then can't be bothered to put one up on their own site?)

    • Best Buy consumer electronics department staff have larger brains than normal humans on average? Well maybe larger than the average Best Buy shopper.
    • by mdm42 (244204)

      You beat me to it... I was about to mention my current employer [mikro2nd.net]! (About to be my ex-employer at the end of this month.)

    • While offtopic; I was buying a tv a couple months ago, a best buy salesman openly insulted me, calling me an idiot, for not purchasing service by their geek squad to adjust my color and contrast for me. The service cost as much as the tv.

      He claimed it would extend the life of the tv, but had no idea from or to what. I guess he was right, I was an idiot to try and buy a tv that won't last without adjusting the contrast.

      I went to Sears and happily paid a few more bucks for the same model.

  • If I'm not mistaken, our civilization is only about 10,000 years old.

    If the Neanderthal had bigger brain, there is a possibility that they had a civilization. That civilization might have discovered fire, internal combustion engines, rockets and even 27KM long particle accelerator.

    The last traces of the neanderthal is about 30,000 years ago.

    What I want to know is whether or not they found the Higgs boson before they went extinct!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Brain complexity > Brain size
       
        I haven't heard of too many elephant or whale civilizations found yet

      • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:30AM (#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 MightyMartian (840721) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:50AM (#24527627) Journal

          There's a lot of debate as to what human-like abilities the Neandertals did possess. There are only a few burials, and while there does seem to be some ceremonial aspect to them (suggesting at less some capacity to invoke and comprehend symbolism) they're pretty damned primitive. Technologically, the Neandertals spent much of their time on this planet in a stasis. Advancement and innovation was excruciatingly slow, with much of it happening in the final few thousand years when they seem to have picked up on what the invading modern humans were doing, at the very least trying to remain competitive.

          Of course, the flipside to that is that anatomically modern humans spent a good chunk of their time on this planet in the same sort of stasis. Sites in the Levant where Neandertals lived and where the first modern humans came out of Africa show that for thousands of years you could tell little difference between the two on technology alone. At some point over the last 100,000 years something changed in the way modern humans' brains were wired that saw a blossoming of symbolic thinking and technological and cultural innovations. Unfortunately, wiring doesn't get fossilized, and the best theory based on very slim evidence seems to be that a major complexification of language, from earlier more primitive proto-languages to fully modern language probably played a big part in this. The fossil evidence suggests that hominids have had the structural ability for a million years or more. We've got a long way to go on this one, and what's going to start to answer some questions is if we can start finding enough Neandertal nuclear DNA to start looking at genes like FOXP2.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by pionzypher (886253)
            Unfortunately, wiring doesn't get fossilized

            Remind me to introduce you to my boss sometime.
          • So there the Neanderthals were trucking along nicely for hundreds of thousands of years. Then they start to copy the humans and promptly disappear. Perhaps we should take note... ;-)

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            At some point over the last 100,000 years something changed in the way modern humans' brains were wired that saw a blossoming of symbolic thinking and technological and cultural innovations.

            That's when the monolith appeared.

          • Technologically, the Neandertals spent much of their time on this planet in a stasis. Advancement and innovation was excruciatingly slow....

            Hey! You're describing the place where I work!

        • Actually it's the ratio of brain to body mass [wikipedia.org] that really matters

          This, I have never believed. What should body size have to do with intelligence, and why should bigger be worse? Midgets have full-size heads; are they smarter than 6 ft. adults?

          If you ask me, the significance of EQ is simply that it's a quantitative measure that humans happen to win.

          • Like anything in life or science, there are always exceptions. For a given population of large enough size, the distribution for mature adults fits linearly. A sperm whale has a brain mass of 7.8kg [wikipedia.org], about 6 times ours. They are, however, between 25 and 55 Mg, which is far greater than six times our own mass. Hence, we are smarter. With a larger body, you need a bigger brain to pull off the same feats. It's not that simple, but it holds for the most part.

            With midgets, things fall apart. You can't use

            • A sperm whale has a brain mass of 7.8kg [wikipedia.org], about 6 times ours. They are, however, between 25 and 55 Mg, which is far greater than six times our own mass. Hence, we are smarter.

              "Hence" we are smarter?

              The word "hence" implies a causal link, but I don't see any. You say,

              With a larger body, you need a bigger brain to pull off the same feats

              but this is awfully weak as explanations go (I'm sure you agree). So I'm still left thinking that E.Q. is a circular definition: We believe that we are smartest, so we looked for a plausible function that "happens" to make us win.

              The problem is, there's actually evidence that E.Q. is not a good predictor of intelligence. At least among primates, Overall Brain Size, and Not Encephalization Quotient, Best Predicts [karger.com]

              • Apologies for trying to simplify things and type less. There's no causal link between a sperm whale size and our brain function, but if you plug and chug those numbers into EQ, we end up smarter. Hence, hence.

                We believe that we are smartest, so we looked for a plausible function that "happens" to make us win.

                Well, I can't argue that because by that token any solution in which we are smarter fails simply because we want one. But the truth is that there's a reason that humans are smarter than all creatures, that primates are smarter than most, that dolphins and other cetaceans are highly intelligent, that

                • by Gr8Apes (679165)

                  Well, throw in earlier animals, such as the various dinosaurs, and you'll get some interesting data points that will most likely lie outside your graphs. Add in the parrots that have actual vocabularies of over 100 words, and the entire premise falls apart.

                  • Actually,

                    In fact, relative to body weight these colourful birds have brain sizes that are on par with chimpanzees and orangutans.... "Humans have these really big brains, but guess what, parrots have really big brains too. In fact, if you overlay a graph of brain size to body mass for parrots on top of one for non-human primates, they sit in a perfect line"

                    Source [nserc.ca]

                    • by Gr8Apes (679165)

                      Not a single number in the doc, and couldn't find the referenced article at either referenced site. Horrible linkage. (Yes, I actually wanted to see the actual numbers... silly me)

            • Oh, and what's with the link to the paper on differences in g between black and white populations? As in, what's your point; what does it have to do with E.Q.? The only connection I could see with our conversation would be if E.Q. were different between black and white populations, but I see nothing of the sort mentioned in the page you linked to -- so I must have entirely missed whatever point it was you were trying to make.

              • Search for "midget" on that page. It's not much, but it speaks almost directly to what I speaking about. g is the General Intelligence Factor.

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday August 08, 2008 @12:00PM (#24527801) Journal

        That may be so, but we have plenty of signs that Neanderthals were every bit as evolved as the Cro-Magnons (humans) at the same time.

        They did use fire. In fact, occasionally they seem to have even used coal, something Homo Sapiens never really got into until Renaissance. They also cut down trees and used wood extensively. They skinned animals and used the skins. They used traps to hunt, in addition to spears. They built elaborate shelters. Their weapons and tools are every bit as evolved as those of the Cro-Magnons, and they too used tools to build other tools. (A chimp may sharpen a stick into an ad-hoc tool or weapon, and then discard it. Humans and Neanderthals built a wooden mallet to chip a flint axe, to cut a branch, to make a spear. Then keep them.) There are signs of _some_ work specialization, which also involves at least some societal organization and maybe even some primitive trade. (As in, I'll give you a leg of antelope if you make me a good spear.) They not only buried their dead, but there are signs of using grave goods and basically ritual burial. That alone hints at some primitive religion and a concept of afterlife. (You don't bury someone with food and weapons if you expect that he's just dead and rotting, and has essentially just ceased to exist.) But, at the very least, it means they probably had a few abstract concepts there, like remorse. We found stuff from them like a femur with holes drilled in it, very likely a primitive flute or such. They seemed to have decorated themselves with primitive jewellery and paints. That's a few more abstract concepts you need for those. Etc.

        Basically, seriously, it's every bit on par with primitive Homo Sapiens. Go look at some forgotten tribe in the Amazon, like the recent ones who were trying to shoot arrows and chuck spears at a helicopter, and the Neanderthals weren't any less advanced than those.

        The _only_ puzzling shortcoming about Neanderthals, is that there we found no missile weapons from them, nor any sign that they ever used missile weapons. Which may point at some shortcoming of their brain after all. Still, I wouldn't qualify someone as non-sentient, after they did all I've listed above and more, just because they can't do ballistics.

        • That may be so, but we have plenty of signs that Neanderthals were every bit as evolved as the Cro-Magnons (humans) at the same time.

          I think what you meant to say was "as anatomically-modern humans". They were definitely not as advanced as Cro-magnons, which were the first modern-looking *and* behavorially modern humans in Europe. There's some evidence that in those last years, the Neandertals tried to catch up with the technical prowess of Cro-magnons, but they ran out of time. It was Cro-magnons who ar

          • by Moraelin (679338)

            No, I genuinely meant to say "Cro-Magnons." I do some typos all the time, but not that big ;)

            • But toolkit-wise and behavior-wise, Cro-magnons were significantly more advanced than Neandertals. There's pretty much a line in the sand between Neandertal-dominated Eurasia and the arrival of the Cro-magnons. Cro-magnons were a part of a wave of modern humans that left Africa somewhere around 50k to 60k years ago and ended up everywhere (including, in the last century or so Antarctica). There were earlier modern human populations, the ancestors of the Cro-magnons are their close cousins who branched ou

        • > we have plenty of signs that Neanderthals were every bit as evolved as the Cro-Magnons

          Well given that contemporary Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, as well as frogs and mushrooms, are all presumed to share a common ancestry, they are all precisely as evolved as each other.

          I wish people would stop using the word 'evolved' to mean whatever it is that they would like it to mean and use it for what it actually means.

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by imkonen (580619)

          That may be so, but we have plenty of signs that Neanderthals were every bit as evolved as the Cro-Magnons (humans) at the same time.

          [snip]

          ...That alone hints at some primitive religion and a concept of afterlife

          It think it's a debateable point that having religion is indicative of a more evolved state :-).

      • by Kingrames (858416)

        That's because they're too smart to associate with you. You should see the videos of their ninja assassins in action.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Here's a funny thought. They DIDN'T go extinct. They just got fed up with this planet.

      So, they constructed a generation ship in orbit, disassembled all traces of their civilization and vamoosed. They're out in the OORT cloud somewhere, trying to decide whether they're going to continue on to Proxima or return to Earth and whoop ass.

      I hope they come back. I get bored sometimes.

      • by syrinx (106469)

        So, they constructed a generation ship in orbit, disassembled all traces of their civilization and vamoosed. They're out in the OORT cloud somewhere, trying to decide whether they're going to continue on to Proxima or return to Earth and whoop ass.

        I hope they come back. I get bored sometimes.

        They left the planet long ago
        The elder race still learn and grow
        Their power grows with purpose strong
        To claim the home where they belong...

        • by ArcherB (796902)

          So, they constructed a generation ship in orbit, disassembled all traces of their civilization and vamoosed. They're out in the OORT cloud somewhere, trying to decide whether they're going to continue on to Proxima or return to Earth and whoop ass.

          I hope they come back. I get bored sometimes.

          They left the planet long ago
          The elder race still learn and grow
          Their power grows with purpose strong
          To claim the home where they belong...

          Expect a return sometime around 2112.

    • by skeeto (1138903) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:47AM (#24527587)

      The last traces of the neanderthal is about 30,000 years ago.

      So, would you call the neanderthal's situation an Epoch Fail?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Notice that cheap metal ore gets used up by industry: yet there was plenty around to fuel the human industrial age.

    • by dn15 (735502)

      If I'm not mistaken, our civilization is only about 10,000 years old.

      If the Neanderthal had bigger brain, there is a possibility that they had a civilization. That civilization might have discovered fire, internal combustion engines, rockets and even 27KM long particle accelerator.

      I've fantasized about the same possibilities, and it's fun to contemplate. But how likely is it to be true at this point, considering that we haven't already found supporting evidence? Sure, a few hundred thousand years is a good long time for much of it to be destroyed and ground to dust. Yet if Neanderthals or some other dead race had had much beyond than batteries made out of lemons, why haven't we found even some basic artifacts or ruins from their vehicles, factories WalMarts, and nuclear reactors? We

    • I hope everyone realizes that my above post was meant to be humourous, and not to be taken seriously.

      It's Friday after all!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If we've come to the point where we can permanently scar the earth with steel and asphalt, fling robots at other planets, and embed millions of miles of cables in the earth with just 10,000 years of recorded history, it is difficult to imagine that their entire 630,000 year civilization left less of a mark than 6 skeletons

      It's almost as if these "scientists" and archaeologists were completely making up any crazy numbers they wanted (as long as it's less than 300 million and more than 10,000), and couldn't
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MightyMartian (840721)

        This is a rather bizarre comment. Hunter-gatherer societies don't support large numbers. Whether it's Neandertals or moderns, if you're a hunter-gatherer, you need, depending on the environment, a rather large area of territory to make your living from (this is leading theory in the Neandertal extinction, that moderns simply out-competed them. 10,000 years ago, at the beginning of agricultural revolution, there weren't exactly a lot of people out there, but agriculture allowed for much more efficient use

      • by Alsee (515537)

        Only an ignorant bigot who hates science would say the emperor has no clothes!

        I have no idea whether you are a racist or not but you are clearly ignorant on this subject. The only question is whether you are a reasonable rational person who is merely uninformed in this area, or if you are some some fundie zealot who will rant and rave blindly defending dogma in the face of blatant proof it is incorrect.

        If you dig in the arctic snow pack, you will find visible yearly layers. For half the year the snow surfac

  • by aapold (753705) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:26AM (#24527171) Homepage Journal
    The divergence will have been 666k years ago.
  • that's impossible! the world's only about 6000 years old.
  • by swid27 (869237) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:46AM (#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.

    • 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.
  • Really? Shocking! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by olddotter (638430) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:48AM (#24527597) Homepage
    Giving the bizarre sexual practices you can find recorded on line, I find this rather amazing. It just seems that some hard up adolescent cave boy from one species would end up finding some slower running female of the other species more often than that....
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday August 08, 2008 @11:53AM (#24527685) Journal

      That's actually a big argument for why humans and Neandertals may not have been able to produce viable offspring. As the lesson of the European sailors during the Age of Exploration shows, regardless of physical differences between populations, people like to fuck. We're only best by Bonobos in the horny ape department, and if some humans can get off on copulating with sheep and even inanimate objects, it's hard to imagine them not making it a Neandertal.

      • Not just that (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Moraelin (679338) on Friday August 08, 2008 @12:23PM (#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 jamesh (87723)

          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

          I know i'm being very pedantic here, and the occurrence of this is probably statistically insignificant, but not every woman is XX and not every man is XY. There is at least one XXY woman on record who has given birth, and others probably exist undetected. It may be that the 'Y' from the mother coul

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

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Friday August 08, 2008 @12:01PM (#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.
    • by alleycat0 (232486)

      ...except that trolls belong to myths about "the little people", but Neandertals were more *massive* than H. sapiens (especially at that period in time)

    • by yali (209015)

      I have a very similar theory about the origin of dragon [flickr.com] stories.

    • I swear, half the people living deep in the Finnish forest are trolls. They're not recognized as such though, and the males are forced into military service. There they are given assault rifles, violate each and every safety rule during target practice.

      It's terrifying. I'm staying near the coast these days.

      ps. They don't seem to be allied with the gnomes living in in our major cities.

    • I think those stories are much more likely to be from recent displacements, specifically the stories that expanding farming populations told about the hunter-gatherers that lived in the forests around them.
    • by jamesh (87723)

      trolls are the last vestiges of memory of the interaction between humans and Neanderthals

      Interesting theory. It would explain why they all turned to stone.

  • It is now obvious how it is possible that Atlantis existed. Neanderthal Atlantis, not human Atlantis. Makes perfect sense now.
  • by Channard (693317) on Friday August 08, 2008 @12:14PM (#24528057) Journal
    ... is where 'Chavs' come from.
  • There are a number of problems and unexamined assumptions here, starting with the rate of mitochondrial mutation, comparative attractiveness of neandertal females to african males, and african females to neandertal males, and that 13 samples is by no means sufficient to evaluate a race that lived from Gibraltar to England, to Israel, to the Himalayas.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 08, 2008 @12:32PM (#24528389)

    Hey, I resent your insensitive remarks about Best Buy employees being Neanderthals.

    Some of us belong to Homo Habilis!

  • Just because we don't share mtDNA, there could have been human females impregnated by Neanderthal Males. That could have been the case. Plus there are some features in Neanderthals that have been seen in certain European / Eurasian populations.

In the sciences, we are now uniquely priviledged to sit side by side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand. -- Gerald Holton

Working...