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Neanderthals "Had Sex" With Modern Man 536

Posted by samzenpus
from the strange-bedfellows dept.
According to Professor Svante Paabo, director of genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Neanderthals and modern humans had sex across the species barrier. The professor has been using DNA retrieved from fossils to piece together the entire Neanderthal genome, and plans on publishing his findings soon. He recently told a conference that he was sure the two species had had sex, but still had questions as to how "productive" the relations had been. "What I'm really interested in is, did we have children back then and did those children contribute to our variation today?" he said. "I'm sure that they had sex, but did it give offspring that contributed to us? We will be able to answer quite rigorously with the new [Neanderthal genome] sequence." What remains a mystery is what Paleolithic brewery provided the catalyst for these stone age hook-ups.

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Neanderthals "Had Sex" With Modern Man

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  • humans (Score:5, Funny)

    by flynt (248848) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:47PM (#29891343)

    Humans... so easy, a caveman can do them.

    • Re:humans (Score:5, Insightful)

      by joaommp (685612) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:17PM (#29891649) Homepage Journal

      Humans will have sex with pretty much everything they can...

      (if you don't trust me, think of this: if you can think it, someone has made porn about it, just check the tubes).

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Locke2005 (849178)
        I believe you are citing Rule 34: If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.

        Damn... now you've given them ideas... (shudder) Neanderthal porn!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Absolutely. Half-elves, half-orcs, half-ogres... half-fiends... centaurs...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Greyfox (87712)
        Well I just googled on "Neantheral Porn" and didn't find any... yet. The results are amusing, however. I'm sure that someone is registering neanderthalporn.com as we speak.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jbatista (1205630)

          Well I just googled on "Neantheral Porn" and didn't find any... yet.

          That's easy. "Neanderthal" is too much of a mouthful for some people. Try googling "Caveman porn" when you're not busy (in 3, 2, 1...).

    • by karlwilson (1124799) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:39PM (#29892239)
      Cave paintings or it didn't happen.
    • Re:humans (Score:4, Funny)

      by Torodung (31985) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:53PM (#29893077) Journal

      And on that note, it sheds a whole new light to the "messing with sasquatch" campaign as well.

  • by turing_m (1030530) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:47PM (#29891345)

    Developers, developers, developers...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:51PM (#29891393)

    ...and later went on to form the first government - which has been screwing modern man ever since.

  • Scientific? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:52PM (#29891395) Homepage Journal

    "I'm sure that they had sex"

    What evidence? The article says:

    "We will be able to answer quite rigorously with the new [Neanderthal genome] sequence."

    "Due to the length of time that has elapsed since Neanderthals became extinct, any trace of their DNA in modern humans could have been diluted below detectable levels. Paabo hopes to overcome this by scanning the Neanderthal genome for the genes of modern humans."

    Okay, he hopes he will be able to overcome this technical limitation. So in other words, the statement that they had sex is just his personal opinion?

    • Re:Scientific? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:10PM (#29891591) Journal

      The neanderthals were close enough to modern humans that in my own opinion, it is possible that humans intermingled socially with them however, it was also my understanding that their DNA was distinct enough from ours to make them unable to interbreed and thus a separate species. Genetic markers in the million base sequence that has been reconstructed so far indicate that they fall significantly outside of typical variation for modern humans.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tygt (792974)
        Neanderthals are often classified as a sub-species - Homo sapiens neanderthalis - as well as occasionally classified as a separate species.

        Given that offspring of cross-species breedings can and often do produce a fertile result (eg, see Wolf x Jackal - definitely separate species, we're not talking breeds here, as well as many other hybridizations), there's much to point to H.sapiens.sapiens x H(.sapiens?).neanderthalis being able to interbreed, especially if they were only a sub-species.

      • Re:Scientific? (Score:5, Informative)

        by rcamans (252182) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:23PM (#29892535)

        Actually science does not have any test that will indicate that two critters will or will not breed successfully, within the same genus. There have been successful matings between South American and other cats, for example. SA cats have 36 chromosomes, other cats all have 38. but mating does produce kittens, although most are sterile (with 37 chromosomes). So fairly large variations in chromosomes does not bar breeding. So if Humans and Neanderthals turn out to be the same genus and just different species, then they could conceivably have breed. In reality, the successful breeding is the only current test which exists which says two critters are of the same genus. It used to be that the definition of species was that two different species could not interbreed, but that is not true.

    • Re:Scientific? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:11PM (#29891605)

      Diluted below detectable levels

      I too was sort of shocked to read that quote.

      Genetics doesn't exactly operate like Homeopathy.

      He should have known that mitochondrial DNA doesn't dilute in the normal sense. Its been used to trace most human ancestors to a couple places in Africa, almost to a couple of individual females.

      I have to wonder just what his basis was, other than sheer speculation. Given the state of civilization (or the lack thereof) at the time, one would not be surprised to see conflict and in conflict taking of prisoners.

      • by schon (31600) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:46PM (#29891919)

        Its been used to trace most human ancestors to a couple places in Africa, almost to a couple of individual females.

        Two questions:

        1. If it was two females, how did they reproduce?

        2. Do you have any pictures? (Maybe an artist's interpretation? :)

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jschen (1249578)
          I realize you're trying to be funny, but mitochondrial DNA is inherited from mothers only. Therefore, it is good for tracing lineage through females, but completely useless for tracing lineage through males.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by autophile (640621)

        Its been used to trace most human ancestors... almost to a couple of individual females.

        All humans to one common female ancestor [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Toonol (1057698)
      Yeah, there seems to be nothing of substance there.

      I'm mean, I'm SURE we had sex with neandertals; it's nearly absurd to suggest we didn't. However, there's absolutely no point to the article until some DNA or other evidence is found.
    • Re:Scientific? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:28PM (#29891753)

      "I'm sure that they had sex"

      What evidence? The article says:

      "We will be able to answer quite rigorously with the new [Neanderthal genome] sequence."

      He's -sure- of his hypothesis. You think scientists don't become convinced of our own hypotheses before we have actual evidence? We do. I've been quite convinced of my own hypotheses and even occasionally ignored evidence that suggests I'm wrong, much to my later regret. I'm sure every scientist, and probably everyone else as well, has committed similar sins at some point.

  • by a whoabot (706122) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:52PM (#29891397)

    At last we can explain wherefore Celtic people are who they are!

    (*Dodges tossed caber*)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Until they were decimated by the plague (due to having close ties with the Romans), the Celts were a much more populous and civilized society than their English neighbors, who were still running around the woods and building log stockades whilst the Celts were building beautiful stone castles. My first choice of where to look for the neanderthals remaining descendants is obvious...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Pax681 (1002592)

        the Celts were a much more populous and civilized society than their English neighbors, who were still running around the woods and building log stockades whilst the Celts were building beautiful stone castles

        INSIGHTFUL MY ACHING ASS!

        speaking as a Scotsman i find this funny as hell. you see celts were not just Scotland ,Wales and Ireland........... they were pretty much ALL OVER EUROPE. Celts were a culture and not a race... there were Celts all over the place INCLUDING ENGLAND!!!! oh and Germany.. and Swi

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by relguj9 (1313593)

          the Celts were a much more populous and civilized society than their English neighbors, who were still running around the woods and building log stockades whilst the Celts were building beautiful stone castles

          INSIGHTFUL MY ACHING ASS! speaking as a Scotsman i find this funny as hell. you see celts were not just Scotland ,Wales and Ireland........... they were pretty much ALL OVER EUROPE. Celts were a culture and not a race... there were Celts all over the place INCLUDING ENGLAND!!!! oh and Germany.. and Switzerland and France or and spain.....remember the OstroGoths?Visigoths?..erm.. celts..... the celts even sacked Rome...... this is where Milan gets it's name from....

          The foundation of Milan is credited to two Celtic peoples, the Bituriges and the Aedui, having as their emblems a ram and a boar

          yeah.. right next door to England isn't it? and as far as a plague.. well oe third of the roman empire was humped by the plague... however you will find that the SCots and Irisg celts by the VERY nature of them being OUTWITH the roman empire..remember the Scots kicked the crap out the Romans on more than one occassion. and the Irish were prtty much unscathed due to no real expiditionary force from the Romans altough thre was some trade(ie slaves) between the Romans and Irish .Decimation whilst having a roman root isn't even the right wird..lol decimation means 1 out of ten killed. it was , for exa,mple when a legion fucked up they got 1 out of every ten men and killed then as a lesson to the rest not to fuck up again. Or if a p[eople rebelled the same would happen to that population locally as a lesson to the rest. 1/3 != 1 out of ten. there were walls built to seperate the Scots tribes from Roman britain.. thus the plague very much kinda skipped the Scots and Irish on that occassion. i could go on and show you how amazingly wrong you are in yer wee statement but tbh i cannot bothered. i mean did you really believe what you said or just enjoy making shit up?

          That was the most insightful, drunken, Scottish post ever.

  • Beer! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:54PM (#29891435)

    Helping ugly people have sex since 30,000 BCE!!!

  • What a troll (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The only evidence of that would be if the DNA shows that the offspring contributed to our DNA, which he hasn't shown yet. He may as well have said we're desended from aliens, and he's now looking for evidence of that in our DNA.

  • Just another example of rule 34.
  • For in those days (Score:3, Interesting)

    by icebike (68054) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:59PM (#29891503)

    There was this odd quote someone showed me once from some book of the Bible (have to say in advance, I'm not a Bible studier, so I know not where it came from):

        For in those days there were giants in the earth,
        and they bred with the son of man...

    Of course the Bible scholars will surely weigh in here and call me names and "educate me", but one wonders if ancient verbal histories might have more to them than it first seems.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The bible scholars ignore that and explain it away, deny and ignore it. They don't want to touch it. It is so stupid, so abhorrent to reason it's radioactive but it is in the bible.

      It's Genesis 5 and right off the top it seems to say that angels (sons of god) had sex with humans (daughters of men) and begot giants (nephilim). It's the setup and reason for the flood. A close reading shows Noah and his family wasn't chosen for being godly and good but for being "perfect of his generations" i.e not half-breeds

      • Re:For in those days (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:48PM (#29893059)

        The bible scholars ignore that and explain it away, deny and ignore it. They don't want to touch it. It is so stupid, so abhorrent to reason it's radioactive but it is in the bible.

        I'd like to meet these "Bible scholars." Are they the kind of scholars that don't care if it is right or wrong in the first place? I've talked to plenty of Bible - and even Hebrew - scholars that talk about that passage. "Touch it," as you say.

        It's Genesis 5 and right off the top it seems to say that angels (sons of god) had sex with humans (daughters of men) and begot giants (nephilim). It's the setup and reason for the flood.

        That appears to be what it says, indeed. Why not let it say that?

        A close reading shows Noah and his family wasn't chosen for being godly and good but for being "perfect of his generations" i.e not half-breeds!

        Hmmm. I don't think that's the reason. Where is this "close reading" ?

        No bible scholar is going to tell you what the book actually says there.

        How many "Bible scholars" have you met? Incidentally, why not capitalize Bible, just like one would capitalize Romeo and Juliet or Tom Sawyer or any other book?

    • Re:For in those days (Score:4, Interesting)

      by beadfulthings (975812) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:16PM (#29892095) Journal

      You don't even have to confine yourself to scriptural references. Everybody's mythology is chock-full of references to "others"--titans or giants, elves, dwarves, fairies or Shining Folk, really beautiful people or really ugly ones, people with supernatural or "different" powers, people who forced humans to mate with them or were forced by humans. Everybody's folk tales, national epics, fairy tales, religious scriptures, myths and legends--they've all got these sorts of references. It's interesting just to speculate on where and how "we" (humanity collectively) came up with all this wonderful stuff. I've always thought at least some of it must have had to do with our Neanderthal connections--whatever those turn out to be.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mikael (484)

      There are some parasites [healthmad.com] which make their way into the human brain and form cysts. If one of these forms next to the pituitary gland, that will force the person to grow taller than average. I always wondered whether these giants weren't simply a biblical city that had a parasite problem.

  • This is important (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raindance (680694) * <<johnsonmx> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:00PM (#29891515) Homepage Journal

    The issue of introgression (gene flow from neanderthals to modern humans) is hugely important. It's a lot more important than the curiosity or oddity the Times article makes it out to be.

    All the published studies looking for this introgression have been based on neanderthal mDNA. Since it doesn't undergo recombination, it's not a good marker, and the negative results so far are predictable and do not preclude gene flow. It'll be interesting to see Paabo's results. He's been working on getting nDNA data from neanderthal remains for a while now, and perhaps this is a hint that he's found some introgression.

    Why it's important:

    The small picture of why it's important is it would substantially redefine our family tree. We could refine our primate phylogeny.

    The bigger, more hazy, and potentially earthshaking picture of why this could be important is that it doesn't take many viable pairings to get genes from one gene pool to another, and these genes could have been very important to our development. Modern humans and neanderthals were under many of the same environmental stresses but likely developed different adaptions to them. This includes behavior and cognition genes. As Stringer points out in the article, "in the last 10,000-15,000 years before they died out, around 30,000 years ago, Neanderthals were giving their dead complex burials and making tools and jewellery, such as pierced beads, like modern humans.” Proto-modern humans were smart. But neanderthals were also smart, potentially in different and complimentary ways. And perhaps it took a combination of proto-modern human and neanderthal genes to truly make the modern human mind. Our brains could be an example of 'hybrid vigor' on a grand scale.

    So the big question mark is whether, given we can determine gene flow, if this hypothetical combination of proto-modern human and neanderthal cognitive adaptions could have led to the cultural explosion of ~30-50 thousand years ago. The biology is plausible and the timing's right. The data's still out, but it's coming in. Odder hypotheses have come true.

    • If Modern humans and Neanderthals were so different, how likely is it that fertile offspring could have been born?

      If it is not likely, could horizontal gene transfer have been a factor?

    • by timeOday (582209)
      To me it becomes less interesting when you consider that diverging species start as one. During generations when a species is bifurcating, cross-breeding must normal initially, then become less potent over successive generations until finally it is practically impossible. So the question isn't whether this happens, only how long the separation takes - how much the genomes may differ before they cannot mix.

      Secondly, genomes are not stationary over time, so the "modern" humans that may have interbred with

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      All the published studies looking for this introgression have been based on neanderthal mDNA.

      There is this one (citation follows.) It is based purely on the pattern of variation within modern humans - it does not rely on ancient DNA. The Neandertal DNA project should conclusively confirm or refute the hypothesis that the gene came from Neandertals (although it may have come from H. erectus instead.) (There is one earlier similar paper from about 2002 I think, but I found it unconvincing and I can't be bothe

  • Humans (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tool462 (677306)

    Humans have had sex with anything that has a hole. The real question is with what frequency and what success. If there were hybrid human-neanderthal babies running around, that would be interesting. It would also explain the existence of 4chan.

    • Yep [mail-archive.com].

      two Jordanians were evacuated home with injured penises after attempting sexual intercourse with goats.

  • by Perp Atuitie (919967) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:05PM (#29891549)
    This guy is "sure" they screwed, but presents nothing but his surety. There's apparently not the slightest evidence that this is more than a fantasy, however cool a brain-vid it might paint. So the story is that he's going to look some more for evidence that they not only screwed but bred. Maybe after he figures that out there will actually be a story. A pixel is a terrible thing to waste.
  • Yes, they most likely had sex, but it may or may not have been consensual. It's likely that humans and neanderthals fought at some point, and part of war has pretty much always been having your way with the women on the losing side. I'm not condoning this, just pointing out the obvious.
    • by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:25PM (#29891725)

      I'm not condoning this, just pointing out the obvious.

      Thanks for stressing you're anti-rape. With slashdotters, you can't be sure. So many of us spend so much time on the longboats, our long beards matted from all the clotted blood of our enemies. It's easy to forget that when you come home and hang up the horned helmet for a nice relaxing night of using the Core 2 Quad you got as danegeld, that 'no means no'.

      (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

  • Jurassic Park redux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by One_Minute_Too_Late (1226718) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:13PM (#29891615)
    All we need to do now is to take that DNA, splice it back together with human 'junk' DNA and breed Neanderthals for the next great Disney theme park! Instead of being entertained by people walking around in giant suits pretending to be cartoon characters, it could be the greatest edutainment center in the world!!

    But seriously. People have sex across interspecies barriers all the time; animal, vegetable, mineral, it doesn't matter. I doubt that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals looked at each other and said, Hey, I can't have sex with you, you're obviously a different species! Probably they thought to themselves, Two arms, two legs, looks about right, the bits are in the right places, why not?
    • by lawpoop (604919) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:23PM (#29892145) Homepage Journal

      But seriously. People have sex across interspecies barriers all the time; animal, vegetable, mineral, it doesn't matter. I doubt that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals looked at each other and said, Hey, I can't have sex with you, you're obviously a different species! Probably they thought to themselves, Two arms, two legs, looks about right, the bits are in the right places, why not?

      I see what you're saying, but there is a good argument against Neanderthal/Homo Sapiens intercourse. Humans have sex with all kinds of animals, but two they certainly *do not* have sex with are chimpanzees and gorillas. Why not? Because they keep to themselves and they don't want or have anything to do with humans, and if they ever felt threatened or bothered, they will kill you with a wayward strike. Chimpanzees in particular are vicious motherfuckers, and will rip your arms out of their sockets and chew your face off if they get into a rage. They're *much* stronger than they look, and they have the psychological makeup of a psychopath. Gorillas aren't mean like chimpanzees, but still they won't put up with any of your bullshit.

      It's sort of the same thing saying that a human being had never had sex with a lion, panther, baboon, or bear. They're just not as approachable in real life as they are in the movies.

      Now, humans *have* had sex with other great apes, such as orangutans. In fact, I read on the internet a few years back about an orangutan that was kept in captivity as a prostitute in southeast Asia. It was very sad.

      So to me it's an open question. Were Neanderthals more like gorillas, or more like orangutans, in terms of their sexual receptivity to humans? To me, it's an open question. If you look at this skeletal comparison [ablogabouthistory.com], a Neanderthal is obviously a creature you don't want upset with you.

  • by Sarusa (104047) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:22PM (#29891693)

    Have you been in a Wal-mart? People will hump anything with a hole. It seems to me that if you can show that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens/Erectus were in the same place at the same time that you'd need extraordinary proof that they didn't have sex.

    Offspring's a much harder question.

  • Genesis 6 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fished (574624)

    When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, "My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years." 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that we

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Entropius (188861)

      Cool story, bro.

    • by D Ninja (825055)

      Hm...very interesting take on that. I'm actually going to do some research and see what else is out there regarding the Nephilim. One translation of the name means "giant" or "strong men" which Neanderthals could have easily appeared to be.

      As you said, amusing to speculate.

  • They still do. Just go to any college bar and see.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      You're just jealous 'cause the neanderthals are getting more pussy than you do... so am I.
  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:24PM (#29891715)

    Scientists today announced recent evidence suggests beer was invented by Cro-magnon man.

  • Cave drawings will do.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:26PM (#29891733)
    How many people looked at the neanderthal photo attached to this article and thought to themselves, "Yeah, I'd hit that!"?
  • by viking80 (697716) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:56PM (#29891987) Journal

    You do not need any DNA analysis to figure that out. What do you think the troll did to the captured the princess, once he took her back to his mountain cave? And they did not call it the Stockholm syndrome if she ever was freed; it was called bergtatt (literally: taken into the mountain) or bewitched.

    Unfortunately, the history is told by the winner; It would have been interesting to hear these fairytales as told by the Neanderthals.

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