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Science

20% of Neanderthal Genome Survives In Humans 202

Posted by Soulskill
from the long-term-data-storage dept.
vinces99 writes "A substantial fraction of the Neanderthal genome persists in modern human populations. A new analysis (abstract) of 665 people from Europe and East Asia shows that more than 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome survives in the DNA of this contemporary group, whose genetic information is part of the 1,000 Genomes Project." Another study published today (abstract) finds that Neanderthal genes are present in some parts of our genome that we've found to be important. Some of the genes influence fertility and skin pigment, and others actually increase our susceptibility to diseases like diabetes and lupus. The researchers are now taking these known genetic markers and seeing if they correlate with any other health conditions.
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20% of Neanderthal Genome Survives In Humans

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  • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @05:34PM (#46104635)

    But who says Neanderthals were dumber though? They managed to survive the cold climate for much longer than we have (which takes considerable more resources and planning than surviving tropic temperatures), and my knowledge is rudimentary, but from what I seen in documentaries, them dying off/merging may simply have been a matter of a warming earth. They were more barrel chested and not able to withstand the warmer climates as well.

  • by trims (10010) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @05:50PM (#46104807) Homepage

    Neanderthals are barely a separate species.

    They're homo neanderthalensis, while modern man is homo sapiens sapiens. The immediate predecessor to modern humans is homo sapiens idaltu, which is minutely different than us. While a simple majority of paleontologists classify Neanderthals as a separate species, there's a significant minority that advocate them as merely another subspecies (home sapiens neanderthalensis) being more correct.

    Given that the ENTIRE Neanderthal genome differs from ours by 0.15% or less (we're about 2% different than our closest modern primate relative), I'm very surprised that the Homo-specific genome part is only 20% in common between Neanderthal and Modern Human. Particularly since it's now commonly accepted that they interbred with modern humans.

    I think the 20% commonality (if it bears out) probably reinforces the "separate species" theory more than the "distinct subspecies" theory of the Homo genus family tree.

    -Erik

  • by shaitand (626655) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @06:17PM (#46105079) Journal
    There's no such thing as more primitive in a genetic sense which makes it ridiculous in both cases. Anything alive today is the result of all the evolution that has taken place since the first bits of life and is therefore equally evolved.
  • Re:Black and white (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tie_guy_matt (176397) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @06:33PM (#46105221)

    Evidence shows that homo erectus left Africa and then evolved into homo neanderthal. Later early modern humans followed the path of their ancestors and once again migrated out of Africa. It seems that when they met what had evolved from homo erectus -- well let's just say that when the cave is a rockin you shouldn't go a knockin. So it isn't surprising that modern Africans do not have many Neanderthal genes because it doesn't look like they ever migrated back into Africa.

    Of course one definition of two groups being in the same species is if they can mate and have fertile offspring. Since we know early modern humans and neanderthals mated and had fertile offspring you could make a good argument that us, early modern humans, homo neanderthal, and homo erectus were/are all the same species.

  • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @06:38PM (#46105265)

    For instance an average European has an average IQ of 105 compared to 70 in Africa. Though, the higher IQ is likely due to divergent racial evolution that occured well after the insertion of neanderthal genes...

    Or it could be a matter of education, relative stress in childhood, and diet. Or it could be a matter of a cultural upbringing that doesn't value and train people in the types of reasoning favored by IQ tests. I'd like to see a test cataloging our relative abilities to navigate vast terrain, to remember and recite oral histories, to perform pattern recognition based on ability to identify wild plants, or just a simple ability to navigate complex social situations, for example. Or it could be a function of languages, since we already know that languages can affect things like the ability to recognize and categorize colors.

    Have you ever read letters from American Civil War soldiers to their families back home? We're not talking a college education demographic by a long shot, but the eloquence and care of language in these letters is often breathtaking. Are we "dumber" than them as a populace for not being able to write like an average farm boy could 150 years ago? Or are we just trained for different uses of our brains.

    IQ is a crappy measure of genetic superiority, because it fails to account for environment & upbringing, and it's heavily biased towards one particular culture's most valued intelligence traits.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @06:53PM (#46105397) Homepage Journal

    They didn't leave cave paintings or anything that indicates capacity for symbolic reasoning.

    Cro-Magnon man on the other hand, left shitloads of evidence like art and jewelry. Those cave painting in France are very extremely well done, probably better drawn than 95% of current human population could do.

  • by tie_guy_matt (176397) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:01PM (#46105465)

    Despite the fact that the I in IQ stands for intelligence, the standard IQ test is, by design, a measure of how well a person is likely to do in a tradition western school setting. It isn't, and was never meant to be, a measure of a person's worth as a human being or even ones true intelligence. Changes in environment and upbringing can change a person's chances of doing well in school and thus will also change their measurable IQ. So it is likely that certain ethnic groups score differently on their IQ tests, not because of genes or whatever, but because of their environment. Your genes might say that you should be the smartest person in the world; however if you do not get proper nutrition growing up, have parents that are too busy getting what little food is around on the table to read to you, and your early eduction system sucks, then your IQ is going to suffer and you are not going to seem as smart as you could be. Of course this won't stop racists from pointing to tests scores they don't understand in order to peddle their BS.

  • by Immerman (2627577) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:48PM (#46105891)

    Not entirely. Evolution is most meaningfully measured in generations, not years. Those species that have averaged a more rapid average reproductive cycle since their ancestors parted ways with ours will have undergone more evolutionary iterations than us. Mice are in the lead pack among mammals. And bacteria leave even mice in the dust, even before you factor in the fact that for them sex is more like performing limited genetic engineering on themselves, allowing useful mutations to spread through the population without any reproduction occurring. Granted they also lack the chaotic genetic roulette of sexual reproduction that the "higher" organisms benefit from, so their average evolution/generation is probably somewhat different than ours.

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:00PM (#46105977) Homepage

    Cold Winter Theory? That seems ridiculously simplistic. How about a dry summer theory? If cold winters make people evolve because they need to figure out how to survive the winter, then the exact same argument would apply to people living in the middle of a massive desert. The harsh summers would push them to technology or whatever. Or what about peoples who live near the Arctic Circle -- they should be time travelers by now considering the harshness of their winters.

    I think you are confusing technological knowledge with intelligence, and I'm willing to bet that the first appearance of a technology is due much more to some wild confluence of necessity, chance, state of the technology available prior, and resources to put it into practice. Once discovered, it spreads the easy way, via communication. But for people to pat themselves on the back and call themselves "more evolved" because they live in a place where some clever person was born, saw a need, a solution, and had the resources to make it work -- well, that could happen almost anywhere. You just won the tech lottery -- that doesn't make you evolved, it makes you lucky.

  • Party "Animal" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:36PM (#46106307) Journal

    For a good long time, anatomically modern humans didn't make cave paintings and jewelry either, at least not often enough to be detected. Nobody knows what triggered the use of art in humans.

    The best theory I've heard is it's not that humans became smarter, but rather more social. Neanderthal brains were big if not bigger than ours, so they were potentially pretty smart. However, they may have been relatively anti-social.

    The most successful humans were probably those who used trade to get the resources their area lacked. For example, your area may have good arrow-head rocks, but not a lot of prey during the dry season. If you encounter another tribe whose area has a lot of prey but poor rocks, you can trade rocks for meat, and both groups benefit and give birth to more traders instead of making war with neighbors.

    Normally mammals battle neighboring groups because they compete with resources, so trade requires a different mentality: socializing with strangers. It may have taken several thousands of years to evolve this tendency. (Slashdotters are still working on it :-)

    Neanderthals may just have been slower to take advantage of trade. This is possibly because the human population was greater, magnifying the benefits of trade.

    Cave paintings and jewelry may have been an early form of advertising of your goods and services, and serving as social gestures of good will.

  • by InsectOverlord (1758006) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @09:08PM (#46106481)

    They didn't leave cave paintings or anything that indicates capacity for symbolic reasoning.

    We aren't so sure [bbc.co.uk] about that.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @09:55PM (#46106741) Journal
    But IQ tests are the best measure of predicting how well one would do in IQ tests.

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