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No Sex Between Neanderthals and Humans, Says Study

Posted on the 15 August 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
A neanderthal Did primitive homo sapiens sleep with Neanderthals? Photocredit: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva at Shutterstock.

The background

Two scientists from Cambridge University claim that, after all, we may not be descended from Neanderthals. In work published in PNAS, Drs Anders Eriksson and Andrea Manica found that the DNA shared between us modern humans and those ancient Neanderthals – estimated at 1-4 percent – probably comes from a common ancestor, rather than interbreeding between the two species.

Previous studies of Neanderthal remains show that their genomes have signatures found in those of Europeans, East Asians and Ocanians – but not modern Africans.

This means that a common ancestor to both species came from, say, North Africa; one group moved north and became Neanderthals; the second moved south to become the population that would change into homo sapiens, about 70,000 years ago. So who’s right, and will we ever know?

Neanderthal DNA comes from common ancestor

Four main theories, reported the BBC, try to explain the evolution of homo sapiens. All say that we come from Africa, but the distinction arises in whether or not interbreeding happened between homo sapiens and other members of the same genus. The Cambridge scientists argue that the tiny DNA sample shared with Neanderthals comes from a common ancestor from 300 thousand years ago.

DNA comes from interbreeding

Not everyone’s convinced, however: Professor David Reich, from Harvard University, says, quoted on the BBC, that if you use methods that differentiate between genetic similiarity caused by gene flow via hybridisation, and shared ancestry, then what you see is exactly what you would expect from hybridisation – which means Neanderthals and humans did get it on, about 47-65,000 years ago.

It’s not as if they didn’t try

The Daily Mash took a tongue in cheek view. “New research has cast doubt on claims that the two species interbred. However scientists believe this wasn’t for lack of the Neanderthals trying.”

You say hanky-panky, I say common ancestor! New study questions human-#Neanderthal interbreeding theory: e @guardian

— Max Planck Society (@maxplanckpress) August 14, 2012

And here’s a picture of a Neanderthal in a suit, just for kicks, from Pinterest:

No sex between Neanderthals and humans, says study

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