Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


Neanderthal genes

Neanderthal woman
Originally uploaded by different_views.

In the latest issue of New Scientist, there is a long article (“The Neanderthal within”) about the feasibility of early humans having absorbed some Neanderthals into the population. While the evidence still looks somewhat flaky, I realise the possibility cannot be totally ruled out yet (but we’ll see when the Neanderthal genome is finally sequenced).

However, one bit of the article troubled me: “Like it or not, we may have to accept that our species is, to some extent, a hybrid. There’s a little bit of Neanderthal in all of us.”

This just doesn’t make sense! As far as I know it’s uncontroversial that Neanderthals never went south of the Mediterranean or east of the Urals. Likewise, homo erectus was restricted to a much smaller area than homo sapiens. But the logical conclusion of this is that while Neanderthals and other species of homo could have had sex with us in Europe and other specific areas, surely humans in large parts of the world would not have had this opportunity, so our species as a whole clearly cannot be a hybrid, even if it could be shown to be true for Europeans.

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