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Science

Mystery Humans Spiced Up Ancients' Sex Lives 238

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-you-doing? dept.
ananyo writes "New genome sequences from two extinct human relatives suggest that these 'archaic' groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known. The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a different archaic human group, the Denisovans, were presented at a meeting at the Royal Society in London. They suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet unknown human ancestor from Asia. 'What it begins to suggest is that we're looking at a 'Lord of the Rings'-type world — that there were many hominid populations,' says Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London who was at the meeting but was not involved in the work."
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Mystery Humans Spiced Up Ancients' Sex Lives

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  • Are they first or second cousins and are we playing by North or South rules?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:18PM (#45478837)

      In the beginning, we were all fish. Okay? Swimming around in the water. And then one day a couple of fish had a retard baby, and the retard baby was different, so it got to live. So Retard Fish goes on to make more retard babies, and then one day, a retard baby fish crawled out of the ocean with its...mutant fish hands... and it had butt sex with a squirrel or something and made this. Retard frog-sqirrel, and then *that* had a retard baby which was a... monkey-fish-frog... And then this monkey-fish-frog had butt sex with that monkey, and that monkey had a mutant retard baby that screwed another monkey... and that made you!

      So there you go! You're the retarded offspring of five monkeys having butt sex with a fish-squirrel! Congratulations!

    • Re:Human Relatives (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:46PM (#45478941) Homepage

      Far more likely the now dominant species were playing by pillage, plunder, rape and enslave rules. Which is why to this day, we still have problems with psychopaths and narcissists, our major contribution to the human genome pool and the main reason for the extinction of others human species, countless human societies and likely at the end of it all, our own. A defective human mutation whose greatest contribution to human society is war, rape and genocide (basically taking the humane out of human, -e self destructive ego).

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @12:23AM (#45479043)

        So you say we all evolved out of a bunch of managers?

        Sorry, but there I draw the line. When Darwin said we evolved outta monkeys, ok. I could dig that. But managers... YOU TAKE THAT BACK RIGHT NOW!

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          No, if you can tell the difference and you obviously don't socially align with them, well, you are just not evolved from them, you to put in bluntly, are just the latest evolution of victims of them. When it comes to them think inbreeding, think royalty and their flunkies, so from inbred royalty did corporate executives evolve (you know literally all those right royal bastards).

        • by prefec2 (875483)

          I thought we are the descendants of phone disinfectors, advertisement agents, and someone searching for a soap mine.

      • Re:Human Relatives (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hey! (33014) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @01:16AM (#45479201) Homepage Journal

        We also have compassion, cooperation and communication. Those are the "killer features" of human behavior, the things that make us the most adaptable animal species ever. These are such fundamental features of what it means to be human that it's easy to take them for granted.

        You mention enslavement, pillage and plunder, and those make my point. Until you have built a society beyond small nomadic hunter-gatherer bands, slavery makes no sense. Pillage and plunder as well are meaningless until your species has at least developed agriculture, and the social ability to band together to attack people who have converted agricultural surplus into property.

        But in the end it isn't about being nice, it's about being adaptable. Being nice -- the things that make others want to spend time with us and cooperate with us -- just happens to be the best basic pattern for building a species with maximum behavioral adaptability. But it makes sense that we ALSO retain the ability to be not-nice. From time to time it's useful for survival -- just less than the 100% of the time that social Darwinists would have us believe. There are times when turning on your neighbor at least ensures someone from the neighborhood survives.

        It's a tautology: a behaviorally adaptable species manifests many different kinds of behaviors. So it seems plausible that our distant ancestors made both love AND war with the other human species on the planet.

        Remember, though: it was a much less populated planet in the Early Paleolithic. Even in the more populated Late Paleolithic period there were fewer people in the whole world than there are in the Portland OR metropolitan area today. There were maybe 3000 in all of Europe. If in all that underpopulated land you happened to meet another band of humans, which would be better for your genetic legacy? Exchanging genes or exchanging attacks? Screwing or stoning?

        • 3000 is a bit low, that woiuld be 100 families/tribes with roughly 30 members.
          But you are right, the population was very low. Some estimate around -10,000 (before christs birth) the population on the whole planet reached 1,000,000. Some other researchers believe it was more in the 4 - 10 millions range.
          OTOH some researchers estimate around -70,000 (BC) the total human population was only 25,000 - 30,000.
          I find that a bit low, but who knows. In our days with so many species at the edge of extinction we can h

        • by rahvin112 (446269)

          Hate to break it to you but there are lots of nomadic hunter gather populations that engage in war, rape and absolutely slavery. In fact the European and american slave trade was initially started by the nomadic berbers who basically ran the slave trade in north africa. Slavery always makes sense, there is always tedios or dangerous work that warrants slaves regardless of how primative. If you think nomadic people dont engage in slavery you clearly don't know anything about nomadic people, past or present.

      • Re:Human Relatives (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Derec01 (1668942) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @02:49AM (#45479433)

        There's no evidence from this story that the other groups weren't equally likely to pillage, plunder, and rape. That's a poignant and tragic idea, but it's less an evidence-based explanation than just wrapping together the idea of the 'noble savage' with some misanthropy. I'm sure you're fun at parties :)

        Seriously though, there's other research showing that we do have an instinct towards teamwork, and that we often only become greedy when prompted to think rationally about our own self interest. It could just as well be that we developed that in response to marauding Neanderthals.

      • Re:Human Relatives (Score:5, Informative)

        by dywolf (2673597) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @08:08AM (#45480395)

        sounds like the same tired saw about "only humans wage war", "only humans murder" ....

        snails rape each other to impregnate each other
        several beetle and other insect varieties do the same thing
        chimpanzees wage war on other chimp tribes
        baboons will given the chance kill entire other tribes (genocide)
        orcas and even dolphins kill for fun
        lions kill each other regularly, particularly a new alpha male in a pride with cubs, will kill all the cubs
        lions also have an instinctive hatred for hyenas (and vice versa) and will kill them just to kill them
        cats (of many species) "play" (torture) their food

        "defective human mutation" ??
        Hardly. It's across the entire animal and even plant kingdom, to the extent that it's cant even be considered a mutation. IE, its the norm, not the exception. the exception is the opposite trait.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Are they first or second cousins and are we playing by North or South rules?

      Safe to say they weren't geeks - they were getting some.

  • by NettiWelho (1147351) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:06PM (#45478797)

    They suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago

    So were the offspring of these 'human-like' beings capable of reproduction? If they were, wouldn't they be just "human"?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not exactly
      The basic definition of a species is a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring (this does get a bit more complex but we'll go with it for now)

      The way things work is like this.

      Say you have a bird population, the population gets split in to 3 semi-isolated groups, one in Africa, one in Europe one in Asia.

      So over thousands of years Africa and Europe can interbreed, so you can call them the same species, or maybe a sub-species.
      Lets say Africa and Asia can still int

      • Re:"human-like" (Score:5, Informative)

        by icebike (68054) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @01:08AM (#45479187)

        Did you read the same article I did?

        This article described interbreeding between several (at least 3) different sub-specie. They were obviously close enough to interbreed and produce viable offspring.

        That's not that uncommon with closely related species. And these were closely related back at that time. Evidence of the survives in the Gene pool today.

        Look, this was only 30,000 years ago. Some fragments of oral history extend back that far (although time gets pretty muddled in oral history).

        This isn't the first scientific study that showed homo sapiens and neanderthal may have interbred. One wonders about whether this knowledge was passed down in legend and incorporated in ancient texts [kingjamesbibleonline.org].

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by myowntrueself (607117)

        Lots and lots of things can interbreed and produce viable offspring, from what we call different species. The concept of species is poorly defined and the capability to interbreed and produce viable offspring is poorly understood. Its quite possible that evolution is far less of a directed, acyclic graph than would be good for computational genomics and evolutionary biology.

        General graphs are a lot harder to deal with computationally than trees so theres a tendency to try to simplify a lot of things to tree

        • So we have a world where many biologists are in denial and just stick their fingers in their ears and go "LALALALALAAA I cannot hear you LALALALAAA" when people start wondering about the potential for viable hybrids to occur in nature.

          Um, biologists have been aware of the fuzziness of species boundaries for a very long time. It's non-biologists who remember the archaic "mate and produce fertile offspring" definition of "species" from high school science class who make comments like OP's.

          • So we have a world where many biologists are in denial and just stick their fingers in their ears and go "LALALALALAAA I cannot hear you LALALALAAA" when people start wondering about the potential for viable hybrids to occur in nature.

            Um, biologists have been aware of the fuzziness of species boundaries for a very long time. It's non-biologists who remember the archaic "mate and produce fertile offspring" definition of "species" from high school science class who make comments like OP's.

            Never the less they still use the concept of species.

            Christians will even point at the confusion around species and go "HA see? Where do species come from?? Must be GOD!"

            Darwins 'origin of the species' is mis-named, it wasn't about origin of species and contains no useful ideas about how species come to be.

            The whole idea of species is just unhelpful and the referent of the term probably doesn't even exist.

            • The whole idea of species is just unhelpful and the referent of the term probably doesn't even exist.
              The idea is very helpfull. If it was'n we had abandoned it and found a better taxonomy.

              At some point you have to make a cut ... or how do you want to distinguish a lion from a tiger?

              Biologists use 3 or 4 "definitions" to define species at the same tim, because they lack the idea for a better schema: like morphology, fertility of crossbreeds, do they crossbreed in nature (Tigers and Lions don't, but Horses an

              • do they crossbreed in nature (Tigers and Lions don't, but Horses and Mules do)

                Umm, mules are sterile (mostly). They don't interbreed with anything.

                Perhaps you meant "horses and donkeys"? Which is where mules come from....

    • obviously since the evidence of their existence was found in our genomes
  • by Wycliffe (116160) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:08PM (#45478805) Homepage

    Groups probably were naturally isolated for long periods of time by geography and as intelligence increased so did the
    ability to travel more and go into other enviroments. Once we became a "global" population all similiar species were
    eventually assimilated.

    • by jovius (974690)

      Traveling doesn't require much intelligence, basically it's just walking unless one happens to end up floating on a piece of wood. It's more about hunger. The basic needs drive innovation. Energy returned of energy invested has to be kept low (no use in running after the pray for days), which leads to more effective methods.

      • no use in running after the pray for days
        Erm ... that is exactly how humans hunt.
        They run after the prey until the prey collapses to overheating and exhaustion. (Most animals have no long term way to get rid of excess heat, like sweating humans. Also unlike humans they mostly use "100%" of their muscle mass, while a human muscle only uses ca. 40% of its fibres and the others are relaxing. When fibres get tired the others take over ... nearly no animalà can do that. That means they overtime exhaust thei

      • by Wycliffe (116160)

        Traveling doesn't require much intelligence, basically it's just walking unless one happens to end up floating on a piece of wood. It's more about hunger.

        Crossing an ocean, crossing a mountain, and surviving in the cold all require either intelligence or proper physical attributes.
        Chimps, although highly intelligent, still aren't intelligent enough to cross a mountain and survive in the cold even though they
        have the advantage of fur and put 1000 chimps on an island without food and it doesn't matter how hungry they get, they are
        not getting off that island.

  • Lord of the Rings? Didn't we already hear [slashdot.org] about these?

  • Nice to see (Score:5, Funny)

    by hduff (570443) <hoytduffNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:18PM (#45478833) Homepage Journal

    Nice to see that we came by our propensity to fornicate with anything in a natural manner.

  • I wonder... (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheloniousToady (3343045) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:24PM (#45478853)

    ...if any sheep genomes were found?

  • by g01d4 (888748) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:29PM (#45478879)
    Is it similar to different races? In light of the recently (too lazy to look it up) revised unification of what were once thought to be different human ancestor species, could the whole interbreeding thing simply be the first signs of larger scale population migrations?
    • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Thursday November 21, 2013 @02:37AM (#45479415) Homepage Journal

      From the "Anthropology in a Nutshell" lectures:

      Something that is often overlooked is that before the adoption of sewage systems, most groups of people had a strong incentive to move around a lot. And since it was not very pleasant to move into an area the neighbors had just vacated, groups tended to move into those areas where no other group had gone before. At least, not for a long time.

      That meant they would cross paths with distant groups fairly frequently. When that happens, there are two things that can occur: either the groups fight, or they party. Fighting is hard work and often painful. Partying can be a lot of fun, and moves the genes around.

      Probably everyone on slashdot knows somebody who has moved to get away from the sh*tty mess they made of the old place. It is an old gene thing that still expresses among the less evolved.

  • Human-like? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tough Love (215404) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:29PM (#45478883)

    In my book, if you can breed with it, it's human. Maybe anthropologists are special.

    • by dyingtolive (1393037) <brad.arnett@NosPam.notforhire.org> on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:39PM (#45478915)
      I am offended that you would declare so many Slashdotters to be something other than human.
    • by PPH (736903)

      In my book, if you can breed with it, it's human.

      If you can't, eat it.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @11:41PM (#45478925) Journal

    thanks to craigslist, mystery humans still spice up my sex life.

    (just kidding, I'm too fat to get laid)

  • ...that warrants the what-is-this-doing-on-Slashdot response. As if any of us are qualified to comment on the topic...
  • So basically, ancient humans and hominids would shag anything that moved eh?

    Why does that sound familiar?

  • Hmm, I wonder what kind of memes this might spawn.

    "Hot prehistoric Asiain Girls"

    or some highly inapropriate LotR-fanfic..

  • by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:19AM (#45479855) Homepage Journal

    If they have living descendants, then surely they didn't go extinct.

    • If they have living descendants, then surely they didn't go extinct.

      I'm seeing a new meme on Slashdot; "Did we really have to say this?"

      Yes, we really did.

      I'm seeing it more often as "sad but true" is trending downward as a meme, and I don't know if that's a sad thing, but it is ironic.

  • Don't get me wrong, especially don't consider me a racist :D

    I think the names for e.g. Neanderthals and Denisovans and the distinction between them is pretty arbitrary.

    Lets look from an hobbyist or layman point of view on the phisiognomy and body on an australian aboriginee, a south american indian a chinese an african Ashanti or Bushman.

    Now as we know they live all pretty isolated in a certain region of the world. E.g south america and australia.

    Now lets assume one of them was completely extingued 10.000 years ago. And in that area only west european whites would live now.

    If we would look at the bones of such extingued "species" we easy would assume they are a different species.

    Sure, *I know* that classifying stuff by bones and teeth and age / aera they lived would in this case show many "similarities" while in the actual classification the "distinction" is in the foreground.

    However I allready saw "living Neanderthals" ... people with a strange skull and thick ridges over the eyes, flat nose and with a strong build.

  • by lxs (131946) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:15AM (#45480057)

    Man's insatiable appetite for midget porn. Or is that just me?
     

  • The ancient genomes

    At first, I read that as "the ancient gnomes..."

  • And now it turns out that pretty people are of Elven descent, and ugly people are of Trollish descent? Who knew!

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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