Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Are today's "humans" actually a sapiens-neanderthalensis "genetic cocktail?"
From the BBC:
The length of time modern humans (Homo sapiens) and Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) overlapped in Europe has been a keenly debated topic in recent times. A long overlap raises important questions about the extent to which we might have interbred with them, and possibly even contributed to their eventual demise.
Successful re-dating was conducted on specimens from the Jarama VI cave site Research published in 2011 indicated modern humans were living in the lands now known as Italy and the UK as far back as 41,000-45,000 years ago. This may have put them in contact with European Neanderthals who, according to previous dating studies, persisted on the continent for many millennia after these dates.
On the Rock of Gibraltar, for example, it has been suggested that Neanderthals could possibly have hung around until as recently as 28,000 years ago before finally dying out. But the new Oxford study finds such a timeline, and especially the notion of an Iberian refugium, to be problematic. The research team screened more than 200 fossil bones from 11 Iberian Palaeolithic sites, looking for traces of collagen. This major structural protein in bone is the most suitable target for radiocarbon dating, but the PNAS authors could only identify 27 specimens out of the haul that met the necessary standard. And of these, only six would yield a usable date.
A few years ago DNA from 5 (living) human samples was tested. What was found was (depending on the sample source) in 3 of the samples, between 1-4% of their DNA was common with those of Neanderthals.
This tells us that there is a CHANCE of measurable overlap.
A Harvard Geneticist wants to see what he can find now with a LIVE Neanderthal, not just samples of their DNA so he placed a help wanted ad. "WANTED: ADULT FEMALE HUMAN TO ACT AS SURROGATE FOR THE INTENTION OF BIRTHING THE FIRST NEANDERTHAL IN OVER 35,000 YEARS" (I may have taken some liberties with the headline but that's the gist.
Sources -> http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21330194 http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1987568,00.html