Tag Archives: neanderthals

Genetic research confirms that non-Africans are part Neanderthal

There has been a long standing debate regarding the Neanderthal people, and what kind of legacy we carry from them. Recently, a study conducted by an international team of researchers led by Damian Labuda of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center showed that a part of the human X chromosome originating from Neanderhtals is found only in people outside Africa.

“This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred,” says Dr. Labuda. His team places the timing of such intimate contacts and/or family ties early on, probably at the crossroads of the Middle East.

The Neanderthal’s ancestors left Africa some 400.000 – 800.000 years old, and moved to Europe, mostly concentrated in areas in France, Germany, Russia. However, modern humans left Africa only 50.000 – 80.000 years old. But the biggest question which remained on everyone’s lips was whether the Neanderthals, which were bigger, more powerful, and seemingly better adapted could interbred with modern humans, or were just a totally different species alltogether. The response is quite clear now – the two populations lived in a close association to each other, and could interbred. If this was common practice or if it was just occasionally is still unclear.

Dr. Labuda and his team almost a decade ago had identified a piece of DNA (called a haplotype) in the human X chromosome that seemed different and whose origins they questioned. When the Neanderthal genome was sequenced in 2010, they quickly compared 6000 chromosomes from all parts of the world to the Neanderthal haplotype.

Indeed, it could be this genetic injection that helped mankind evolve and go past the evolutionary bottleneck that Neanderthals were unable to overcome.

“Variability is very important for long-term survival of a species,” says Dr. Labuda.

Are you smarter than a Neanderthal ?

Usually, we tend to think of Neanderthals as being our bigger and stronger but not-so-intelligent cousins, but that may very well not be true; it has been shown on several occasions that Neanderthals were quite smart, and they could figure out a whole lot of things by their own, without immitating humans.

In recent years, it is believed that the Neanderthal tools were rough and simple, but that belief may very well be knocked down by some discoveries of thinner, blade-like stones, some of had having jagged toothed edges, while others had one sharp edge and a dull, curved back. These tools were pretty similar to those used by humans in that time, which led archaeologists to believe that Neanderthal culture was heavily influenced by human culture.

It may very well be possible, say, for a Neanderthal to use a hammer, for instance, but to build a hammer with his own mental means… that’s an entirely different story. This fact leads researchers to look upon them in a more favorable light, seeing them as an intelectual match for Homo Sapiens.

The first such discovery was in southern Italy, where the climate was harsh and variable, forcing Neanderthals to improvise on numerous occasions.

“There would have been an advantage to pause and develop new strategies,” said Julien Riel-Salvatore, lead author of the study, which was published last August in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.

However, the major Neanderthal extinction is a well known fact, but these findings seem to indicate that even though they went exctinct, they did try to adapt to the changing climate and ecosystems, but this challenge was just too much for them. Still, why were humans able to survive, and Neanderthals not ? That is still a matter of debate, and probably will be for years.