Sunday, May 09, 2010

This is just like that documentary with Daryl Hannah!

A study of mitochondrial DNA a few years back stated that Neanderthals probably had not mated with our H. sap. sap. forebears.

Having known quite a few H. sap. saps. in my life, I found this conclusion dubious, even in a world before the invention of beer goggles. Plus, there were all those Jean Auel books and, Shiva knows, they made a cage full of rabbits in heat look like the eunuchs' dormitory at the Topkapi on a slow weeknight.

So the link from CNN.com on Friday to this Time.com article came as not much of a surprise. Humans are generally known for trying to mate with anything they're not currently fighting or eating, and I can't see why this should have been any different in the Middle Paleolithic than it is today.

16 comments:

og said...

Those neanderthals were horndogs, at least till senility kicked in. Then the fighting/f***ing/eating kinda all merged together.

Not that I would know.

You know, personally, or anything.

Anonymous said...

There are, IMHO, severe issues with a lot of this DNA/archeology lash up. Just for a common sense thing, none of these guys can explain how all the northern european types had blue eyes & blond hair which are recessive genes if we all came out of Africa. IMHO, that's like finding a bullet fragment at the range and trying to determine the caliber, velocity and location of the shooter. Can't do it with data available.

Tam said...

"...how all the northern european types had blue eyes..."

Actually, that was fairly big news recently.

Kristopher said...

Anon: It doesn't take much of an advantage for a trait like blue eyes to become widespread.

If you want to see a real genetic tidal wave, take a look at lactose tolerance, and the spread of the Indo-European dairy-nomad culture and language.

One individual left his genetic and linguistic stamp on most of Eurasia.

The same thing was happening with the Tutsi tribe in Africa, and their lactose tolerance mutation of 1500 years ago, when their eventual genetic conquest of Africa was cut short by European invasion.

RevolverRob said...

This is such a DUH moment. Biolgists have studied speciation for years. Species who interbreed with other species often produce offspring (typically infertile), but eventually with enough mating and gene flow, they will produce offspring who can reproduce and will. The interspecies breeding will continue until habitat, extinction, or other selective pressures eliminates it.

It is moronic to think that H. sap. saps. didn't evolve in exactly this manner (here we go with human superiority complexes) and that continued interbreeding among H. sap. neanderthalensis didn't continue until neanderthalensis was lost.

I'm continually disappointed by the short sighted bias illustrated by my fellow Physical Anthropologists who seem to have missed out on Biology class.

-Rob

Don Meaker said...

One individual left her mark on the Royal families of Europe in only 2 generations. That was Queen Victoria, whose mutation was hemophilia, passed unknowing through the female line, to most of the royal families of Europe.

theirritablearchitect said...

Maybe this interbreeding with Neanderthals explains the typical knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing traits we seem to find so prevalent in certain classes of people these days, like politicians.

Ed Foster said...

The OCA2 mutation has been dated a bit closer than the article mentioned. About 8,200 to 8,800 years ago, shortly befor the R1 haplogroup split into R1a (Norse, north German, Balt, Slav) and R1b (Alpine/Celtic).

Since it's genetically recessive, the trait must have had some really big value to have survived, and folks were damned if they could figure out what it was until recently.

Yes, blue eyed people have better distance vision in high glare situations than dark-eyed people with the same visual acuity (it's like wearing Blu-Blockers, reflects back 3 times as much excess light in ice or water exposure), but they also suffer from lousy night vision because of it.

Their pale skin does much better in low light climates and they don't suffer from rickets, but they get skin cancer in sunny environments. All genetic tradeoffs.

It turns out that the big advantage to pink skin and autumn colored hair, other than hunter's camo and being able to tell relatives from badguys in the middle of a fight, is fertility. The less the OCA2 gene works, the higher the fertility.

Whomever the nice lady was, back in the Zagros mountains about 300 generation ago, who invented the albinoid traits we think of as "Northern European", she made possible the large scale settlement of most of the world's cold places.

Interesting note: Eskimos raised in temperate climates have a much higher birth rate, even normed for changes in diet, and a popular hypothesis about the decline of Neanderthals during the Wurm Glaciation is low fertility, along with the quite commonly found rickets.

Ed Foster said...

Addendum: Nobody has found any male Neanderthal DNA in skeletal remains. So Og old man, it seems the skinny guys without flat feet were the horndoggies.

The Neanderthals could run as fast as anybody, but the lack of arches cut their hunting radius down to about 8 miles a day.

It seems a few of the brighter Neanderthal ladies (they actually had bigger brains than we do) decided to go with the gents who had the better track record in providing protein, those tall skinny dudes with the scrawny jaws.

Cromagnon averaged around 5 foot 9 inches and 140 pounds (175cm/63kilo), to Neanderthal's 5 foot 4 inches and 235 pounds (162cm/112 kilos).

So obviously hope springs eternal in the human groin, and esthetics had little to do with courting rituals 40,000 years ago.

There may well have been matings between Neanderthal men and Cromagnon women, but it is ludicrously unlikely that a modern human woman could have survived the birth of a Neanderthal child. The birth canal on Neanderthal women was hugely bigger than that of their modern counterparts.

og said...

Ed: You incorrectly assume I'm referring to breeding-type activity.

WV: Duremes. Extra large Durex condoms.

Ed Foster said...

I thought Rae Dawn Chong invented that in 2001?

WV excarta. Does that mean erased from the map? Neandethalencia delenda est!

Joel said...

...like the eunuchs' dormitory at the Topkapi on a slow weeknight...

You travel in hugely different circles than most of us, Tam. Disturbingly different circles.

WV=terse. I can be terse. Once in flight school I was laconic.

Stranger said...

According to the boffins, modern humans have between 1 percent and 4 percent Neanderthal ancestry. From manners and mores, it seems clear that some have far more than 8% Neanderthal ancestry.

One need only to observe certain of our politicians to see Neanderthal ancestry in action. Particularly the Florida transplants from Long Island.

Who are dead ringers for the "tough looking mug" long associated with such descent, and have both the manners and easily offended sensitivities of the most primitive of homo saps.

They tend to jump up and down and scream at anyone who disagrees with them, and demand jail time for such rude and uncouth individuals.

Stranger

Anonymous said...

>>Humans are generally known for trying to mate with anything they're not currently fighting or eating,

What, you never heard of Reavers? They're known for doing all 3, in no particular order.


Sheesh. Next thing you know, you'll be trying to tell me that firefly ain't real.

;)

theirritablearchitect said...

"...The Neanderthals could run as fast as anybody..."

I've read some stuff on this before, and I must say, I think it's rubbish.

Just sayin'

John said...

Jean A did more to sexually liberate the average middle-class, white, church goin' female in this country, than the whole pack of frenzied Lefto-Lib-Fems.

Heck, randy, uninhibited, creative was now HISTORICAL FACT, because those Neolithic Days books were researched and all.

Know,instead of the near-sex of all those bodice rippers paperbacks with brawny covers, a gal could get right down the hot stuff, and it was OKAY.

Hurrah for Jean. She deserves a great big hug from all us guys who benefited from the Womenfolk's Literary Neolithic Sexual Revolution.

da woid: igmangti which is Jean-speak for the fun activity or body part of your choice.