Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Idle Science

Neanderthals "Had Sex" With Modern Man 536

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.


This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Neanderthals "Had Sex" With Modern Man

Comments Filter:
  • Scientific? (Score:5, Insightful)

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

  • What a troll (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:55PM (#29891451)

    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.

  • Re:Scientific? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:57PM (#29891481)

    So in other words, the statement that they had sex is just his personal opinion?

    If something exists, or existed at the same time and in the same place as people, we've had sex with it.

  • Re:Scientific? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:02PM (#29891527)

    "I'm sure that they had sex"

    What evidence?

    I don't see why this should be so hard to believe. Modern people engage in bestiality. It's not so much of a stretch to think that if a someone gets off on doing their dog, their distant relatives would not have any problem getting off on a vaguely human-ish bipedal creature. Or a neanderthal.

  • Humans (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:04PM (#29891541)

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:19PM (#29891667)
    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:Proclivities (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FlyingSquidStudios ( 1031284 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:20PM (#29891679) Homepage
    They were definitely all homos.

    Homo Neanderthalenses that is.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:26PM (#29891741)

    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!

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

    There is a apocryphal jewish book of Enoch, kind of a fan fiction from the first century that fills in the back story for this one chapter. It's all so absurd but that does really seem to be what the chapter was meant to say and what ancient people read it saying to them. People who were almost as close as we can get to being the authors of the bible.

  • 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 cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:31PM (#29891785) Homepage Journal
    "Human beings will Bork ANYthing so thats not supprising..."

    And I swear...I've known people that I know are proof that not only did they have sex with them..but, that they procreated, and exist today..hahaha.


  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:40PM (#29891871)
    But if they had no viable offspring, then no Neanderthal traits would be passed on to Humans, and vice versa, so we wouldn't see any evidence of Neanderthal DNA in Humans or of Human DNA in Neanderthals. That they shared technology is pretty much a given.
  • Re:Scientific? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:13PM (#29892075)
    You are absolutely right. Makes perfect sense. The trouble is that the scientist is basically saying the exact same thing you are, with just as much evidence. It's a non-story, until he actually FINDS evidence one way or another. All it is now is a press release. Announcing the INTENT to do something scientific.
  • Re:humans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:32PM (#29892191)
    I dunno... I hear Nazis had a thing against Poles.... but at any rate, I had heard one time that there were thought to be traces of Neanderthal DNA in the Basque population which is why they are so fairly distinct from other European groups on the genomic level. But I could be wrong.
  • Re:humans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Khyber ( 864651 ) <> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:43PM (#29892269) Homepage Journal

    We have had flying cars for some time, now. At least two decades.

    But to alow regular people access to those vehicles would cause far more problems than it's worth. They can barely stay on a road, you think they're going to fare better in the air?

  • Re:humans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by marcobat ( 1178909 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:58PM (#29892377)
    Funny, you have a "ism" in your signature. Are you holding us back? ;-)
  • Re:humans (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @12:33AM (#29893257)

    When I have points, I mod up anyone that uses "M$" in their posts.

    And I usually mod them down because its usually twitter []
    When I have mod points, I mod down anyone that uses "M$" in their posts.

  • Re:humans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarkProphet ( 114727 ) <> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @04:05AM (#29894185)

    You jest, but how do we know it isn't so?

    I'm too lazy to look around for it at the moment, but I wonder if there are any synchronous comparable samples of both "human" and neanderthal DNA. That is to say, do we have samples of DNA from both humans and neanderthals, from say 15,000 years ago? How do those samples compare in similarity to modern human DNA? Maybe its just a gut feeling, but I strongly suspect that there is a real, even likely possibility that neanderthal descended genes are present in modern-day humans. It would be incredibly interesting to have that proven or disproven.

  • Re:humans (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Carewolf ( 581105 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:39AM (#29894527) Homepage

    Arabs are Caucasian. Caucasian is wider term than Aryan so that it includes Semitic people like Jews and Arabs.

  • Re:humans (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jonadab ( 583620 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:06AM (#29894939) Homepage Journal
    > You jest, but how do we know it isn't so?

    Because, Neanderthals had a larger brain capacity than modern humans. If Congress were full of them, we'd have more intelligent legislation.

    (In all seriousness, if you gave a Neanderthal man modern clothing, he could probably go about freely in any modern city without anyone noticing.)
  • Re:humans (Score:5, Insightful)

    by donscarletti ( 569232 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:24AM (#29895065)

    you're also a racist fuck and I wish there were less of this shit on slashdot

    Why is he racist? Genes are genes, ethnic groups have different genes to other ethnic groups, that's what makes them look different. It doesn't make them any intrinsically better or worse at being a "person" in the modern understanding any more than a Labrador is an intrinsically better or worse pet than a golden retriever.

    If any ethnic group had Neanderthal DNA in its genepool, based on geographic range and skull shape chances are it is Caucasian people, my own race. If this is true, what difference does it make? We've done fairly well for ourselves I think, we're as human as anyone else. I don't really know many other Caucasian people where I live, but I don't feel like I'm grazing with a heard of some other species and I don't think they consider me to be a domesticated Neanderthal pet (at least I hope not).

    Sometimes racial studies are done for the purposes of proving a master race. But usually, it's just because different people have different physiologies and have different common ailments, different recommended lifestyle and diet. If something as superficially obvious as race can tell a doctor what that person is likely to be allergic to and whether that person is likely to have diabetes, it is useful to know.

    However, to me, those "Race and IQ" studies that seem to keep popping up on marginal websites and drawing the bulk of the attention, although not necessarily false, serve little other purpose than to piss people off. Even if they are true, I can see very little practical application, to me they just serve to aggravate the "PC" crowd, but sadly catch the individuals of the races at the bottom of the list (who may themselves be quite smart) in the crossfire.

  • Re:humans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HiThere ( 15173 ) <{ten.knilhtrae} {ta} {nsxihselrahc}> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @01:50PM (#29899991)

    Neanderthals probably had poorer speech capabilities than Cro-magnon (a guess based on nasal sinuses and palate configuration). They also were probably worse at throwing things overhand. (Their favored hunting style was for a bunch of them to take spears and get in close to thrust for the kill.) Also, there's some evidence that their women had narrower hips relative to the size of the baby's head at birth. This probably translated into higher mortality in both the mother and the baby.

    We do know that groups of Cro-magnons and Neanderthals lived in the same place at approximately the same time. Proving that it's exactly the same time is quite difficult, and I'm not certain that it's possible, but they certainly *could* have co-habited. They seem to have exchanged styles of tool-making, so occasional close relationships seems clear.

    Neanderthals tended to be stockier and more muscular. As a result they needed to eat more, but they were also less sensitive to cold. (They evolved during a glaciation.) It's not at all clear to me that they deserve to be called a separate species. They've several distinct physical features, but that's not enough. So, e.g., do red-heads. (E.g., they tend to be more sensitive to pain.)

    Also, don't pay too much attention to the visual appearance of museum reconstructions. They are made with an eye towards making the public aware of the differences, and as a result they tend to exaggerate any theorized differences portrayed by current (or recent past) science.

  • Re:humans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oracleofbargth ( 16602 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @02:25PM (#29900541) Homepage

    And that's because Humans and Neanderthals are actually the same "species".

    BZZZZZT! Wrong! Same genus (homo) but different species. Neanderthals were homo neanderthalensis while modern humans are homo sapiens sapiens.

    Still not correct. The debate is still on whether they are a separate species (Homo Neanderthalensis), or merely a subspecies of humans (Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis).

    If the researcher in the story should find evidence that Modern humans and Neanderthals did in fact interbreed on a regular basis, the findings may likely result in the classification of Neanderthal man being set as a subspecies of human rather than a separate species.

  • Re:Most likely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bar-agent ( 698856 ) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @09:55AM (#29909567)

    Roman Polanski tested that, and look where it got him.

    Rich, famous, admired, and protected?

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.