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Our Neanderthal ancestors

March 22, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
How much Neanderthal are you? There's a site online called 23andme.com that says it can tell you.

Scientists now say that Asians and Europeans have around 1 to 4 percent of their genes in common with the Neanderthals, which would tend to suggest our human ancestors hooked up a few times over the years with some of the Neanderthals, but didn't do it often enough to cause widespread mixing. Other human groups probably did some breeding with other archaic human cousins who were related to the Neanderthals and humans but were distinctly different species.

Neanderthal fossils show some physical differences between humans: a heavy eyebrow ridge, a long, low, bigger skull than humans, a prominent nose. Humans who lived at the same time would have been taller than the Neanderthals, with a higher brow and more narrow shoulders. Some of this is interesting because a group of scientists have decoded the Neanderthal genome and have just put it online for other scientists to study.

Knowing more about the Neanderthals and what genes we inherited from them could conceivably lead to better treatment for disease as well as to a better understanding of ancient human history. We might owe something in our immune system to Neanderthal genes, for instance.

I doubt I will be paying $500 for the privilege of learning whether I have a many times great-great Neanderthal grandfather but it's still interesting to think about. If nothing else, it tells us something about the continuing evolution of the human species.

 
 

Article Comments

(12)

AndreaJohnson

Apr-09-13 12:37 PM

I don't think dogs transmit it.

Toxoplasmosis is apparently common and quite harmless in people with a healthy immune system and is usually dormant. It might only be a problem if you have a disease like AIDS or are undergoing a transplant or something. Then they probably have to give you medication for it.

locomotive

Apr-02-13 10:03 AM

Great info. I had no idea of the toxoplasmosis research. I am NOT a cat person, but I can tolerate the family dog.

My dad and mom were both Rh negative, which made their children the same. My most recurrent experience concerning Rh was the required Rhogam shot during pregnancies and after deliveries. Now to contemplate a Neanderthal connection....

Very interesting topic/blog. Thanks, Andrea.

AndreaJohnson

Mar-30-13 4:15 PM

Lots of weird stuff online about Rh negative blood types, claiming that it's a sign of alien blood or Neanderthal blood, etc. Some of it's fun to look at. It apparently runs in my family, since my mother is Rh negative as well and some of my cousins are too.

I think the scientists have decided that Rh positive people have faster reaction times than Rh negative people when they're infected with toxoplasmosis. The Rh negative gene might have evolved and lasted in regions where there weren't a lot of wild cats (who carry toxoplasmosis). Up to 60 percent of people are infected with it in some places. There's a study online by some Czech scientists that compared the personalities of Rh negative and Rh positive people who were infected with taxoplasmosis and they found some differences there too. Since I love cats and have been around them all my life, I'm probably infected and it has probably had some sort of negative effect on my reaction time!

locomotive

Mar-29-13 5:31 PM

Small world. I'm rH negative too.

AndreaJohnson

Mar-29-13 3:43 PM

There were some scientific journal articles on the Neanderthal genome that are way over my head. The gist of it seems to be that the Neanderthals passed down some immune system genes that made it easier for them to fight off viral infection but also may make people who have the gene variants more susceptible to auto-immune diseases like Type I diabetes or lupus or multiple sclerosis. Auto-immune diseases are basically the body's immune system attacking itself.

There are some other vaguely nutty sites online claiming a link between the Neanderthals and people with Rh negative blood (and alien abduction). That's the sort of wacky thing I always find interesting since I have Rh negative blood. As far as I know, though, the Neanderthals had the same range of blood types as modern humans, with O being most common among the fossils they typed.

locomotive

Mar-26-13 11:42 AM

"Genetic evidence published in 2010 suggests..."

There's a lot to be said about the power of suggestion.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. :-)

EarlyBird

Mar-25-13 7:44 AM

Ugg.

rajiihammr

Mar-24-13 2:40 PM

EarlyBird---Wiki says..."Genetic evidence published in 2010 suggests that Neanderthals contributed to the DNA of anatomically modern humans, probably through interbreeding between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago with the population of anatomically modern humans who had recently migrated from Africa."

See, the Africans (us) went north to Eurasia and had a beer or two with the Neanderthals, but the Africans who stayed in Africa never drank beers with the Neanderthals and therefor never learned how to balance a household budget. Which is not to equate a gov't's budget with a household budget, or drinking beers.

EarlyBird

Mar-24-13 12:32 PM

What the heck I thought the DNA trail they use shows all humans coming out of Africa and very likely long after the Neanderthals time. Who knew we would have more than one idea when time started.

rajiihammr

Mar-24-13 11:14 AM

Whew, EarlyBird, If you are of European or Asian descent then you are partially Neanderthal. Africans are not, though the Irish in the Pres. likely would be. I like the idea of being part Neanderthal. It's also very cool to think that every molecule in your body was made in a star. Big ideas are very neat.

In the larger sense this means that Neanderthals are not really extinct, they walk among and often make comments to blogs.

EarlyBird

Mar-23-13 8:32 AM

Whew somebody is digging pretty deep to find excuses for the POTUS.

PaulLev

Mar-22-13 6:44 PM

for more on Neanderthal - modern human connections, see The Silk Code

 
 

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