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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.


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Neanderthals "Had Sex" With Modern Man

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  • Isn't (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:47PM (#29891337)

    this where ginger people came from?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:55PM (#29891455)

    But wouldn't that mean that if they did actually produce offspring then by the definition they aren't separate species? I am betting they won't ever make the claim that they had offspring.

  • 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.

  • This is important (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raindance ( 680694 ) * <johnsonmx&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.

  • 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.

  • 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?
  • Genesis 6 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fished ( 574624 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `yrogihpma'> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:22PM (#29891703)

    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 were of old, warriors of renown. (Genesis 6.1-4 NRSV)

    I've always sort of nursed a theory... that maybe Adam and Eve were Homo Sapiens and the Nephilim were Neanderthals. Or something like that. The idea is that Eden was a separate creation from Earth, and that on earth evolution really DID take place... but that after the Fall god turned man out of Eden into the earth.

    Absurd of course, and could never be proven. But amusing to speculate.

    Let the flames begin!

  • 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.

  • Re:humans (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GoochOwnsYou ( 1343661 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:57PM (#29891991)
    Neanderthals primary were in Europe and the middle east. The 2 likley canditates of current ethnicicities with possible Neanderthal DNA would be Arabs and Caucasians.
  • 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.

  • 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 [], a Neanderthal is obviously a creature you don't want upset with you.

  • Re:For in those days (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:50PM (#29892321)

    There are some parasites [] 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.

  • Re:humans (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lwsimon ( 724555 ) <> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:37PM (#29892625) Homepage Journal

    I suspect I do, based on my facial bone structure. I'm about 3/4 Germanic and 1/4 Scot. I have a very heavy brow, and my eyes are quite deep-set. I also have quite a bit more body hair than my friends, who are generally of English an Native American ancestry.

  • Re:humans (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:45PM (#29892687)
    god's semen coated, gleaming rod sliding in and out of the tight hole of the teenage virgin mary
  • Re:humans (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:09PM (#29892875)

    I don't know, but I think it's high time someone did something about those homo rhodesiensis bastards who are stealing all our jobs. Bloody non-union mammoth hunters.

  • Re:humans (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:16PM (#29892919) Homepage
    When was the last time you heard of someone crashing their car due to mechanical failure, in or out of warranty? And I mean actual failure ('the suspension arm broke', or 'brakes failed' or whatever) rather than just "I need something to blame for my incompetence". I'm trying but I can't think of any real examples. The only case that comes to mind is that one time that the wheel came off dad's car because the garage only finger-tightened the nuts...

    Another point is that compared to falling from building-type altitudes, the speeds that we travel at in cars are quite fast. The classic example is that hitting a brick wall at 100km/h is the same as being dropped nose-first off a 10 story building.
  • 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?

  • by Col Bat Guano ( 633857 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @12:04AM (#29893133)

    ...and champagne was invented by pro-magnum man.

  • Re:humans (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @02:23AM (#29893715)

    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?

    I think the way flying cars would work is that you get into and say "Take me to work/home/wherever" and then after that it would navigate by GPS and talking to the other cars / central airtraffic control servers to avoid collisions. You'd need radar too to avoid cars that had a mechanical or software problem but there would not be any way for the 'driver' to do any driving.

    So essentially there's be a protocol that made sure that working vehicles had time to detect and avoid non working ones as they glided to the ground.

    The odd thing is that it would be easier to do this in 3D because you can effectively stack 'roads' on top of each other as high as you like. And you could even have more advanced protocols higher up, much like as higher frequencies became technically feasible it was possible to mandate more advanced modulation methods in radio. You can't do that on a conventional 2D road, and it would be hard to support a mixed environment where some cars were on various types of autopilot and some were manually driven.

    Politically it would be very hard to ban manually driven cars on conventional roads and require autopilot, but for something new and cool like flying cars you could just license different height ranges for different protocols. There's be compliance tests too, but you need those for regular cars. I imagine flying cars would look a bit like a microlight aircraft but with some sort of autopilot and probably a clever safety system so they would glide and/or parachute to safety should they have problems. The other cars would detect this an avoid them on the way down. The normal autopilot system would basically make sure that there was enough space between vehicles to make sure this process was safe.

  • Re:humans (Score:4, Interesting)

    by damburger ( 981828 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @03:53AM (#29894133)
    I heard that as well, and it would be consistent with the current hypothesis of Spain being the last hold out of Neanderthal populations. However, I can't stress enough that what we consider 'ethnicity' has no real correspondence to actual genetics.
  • Re:humans (Score:3, Interesting)

    by damburger ( 981828 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @03:57AM (#29894151)

    I also have a heavy brow and deep set eyes, although I am not very hairy. I am also 1/4 Scottish but I think the rest of my ancestry is (distantly, i.e. a few centuries according to my grandfathers research) central/eastern European.

    I don't think the heavy brow is a neanderthal trait. Your skull would be a very distinct shape if you were: []

  • by Neofluffybunny ( 1647855 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @02:48PM (#29900881)
    So the real question is if Neanderthals were approchable? I don't think that this would be the issue. If our two species were in a war like state, we may capture females and proceed to mate. Any chance to procreate maybe needed to increase the chance of survival of the species, even with less than desireable mates. To some extent, there also may have been some trading for food or protection. The reason for mating could be any number of things. Its not like walking up to a bear and saying, "your fur is lovely, can I buy you a fish?" Humans will try to boink anything, just some will get the hell beat out of them, some will get a story to tell the grandkids, and the others will wind up as a hot steaming pile of bear shit.
  • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:39PM (#29902985) Journal

    I'm an orthopaedic surgeon (fix bones, replace hips, etc) and the skeletal differences in the extremeties, and axial (central) skeleton are substantial. HUGE flaired rib cage - much more lung volume and abdominal protection. Hips much more of a varus angle than ours ( are closer to a right angle - most humans are around 135 deg), and also more offset in their hips. Broader pelvis -hell all the bones just appear "beefier" - I'm guessing these guys were strong as all hell. Even the spine seems re-inforced compared to modern humans, who appear much sleeker.

    Neanderthal = power weight lifter.
    Homo Sapiens Sapiens = long distance runner.

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous