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    Haplotype Study Says That Non-Africans Are Part Neanderthal - And Humans Interbred With Them
    By News Staff | July 18th 2011 10:47 AM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    New research has found that some of the human X chromosome originates from Neanderthals and is found exclusively in people outside Africa.

    Neanderthals, whose ancestors left Africa somewhere in the range of 400,000 to 800,000 years ago, evolved in what is now France, Spain, Germany and Russia, and are believed to have lived until about 30,000 years ago.  Early modern humans left Africa about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago.

    The question on everyone's mind has always been whether the physically stronger Neanderthals, who possessed the gene for language and may have played the flute, were a separate species or could have interbred with modern humans. The answer, says an international team of researchers writing in Molecular Biology and Evolution, is yes, the two lived in close association.

    Almost a decade ago, they identified a haplotype in the human X chromosome that seemed different and whose origins they questioned. When the Neanderthal genome was sequenced in 2010, they quickly compared 6000 chromosomes from all parts of the world to the Neanderthal haplotype. The Neanderthal sequence was present in peoples across all continents, except for sub-Saharan Africa, and including Australia. 

    "This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred," says Dr. Damian Labuda of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center.  His team places the timing of such intimate contacts and/or family ties early on, probably at the crossroads of the Middle East.    "In addition, because our methods were totally independent of Neanderthal material, we can also conclude that previous results were not influenced by contaminating artifacts." 

    "Dr. Labuda and his colleagues were the first to identify a genetic variation in non-Africans that was likely to have come from an archaic population. This was done entirely without the Neanderthal genome sequence, but in light of the Neanderthal sequence, it is now clear that they were absolutely right!" adds Dr. David Reich, a Harvard Medical School geneticist, one of the principal researchers in the Neanderthal genome project.

    "There is little doubt that this haplotype is present because of mating with our ancestors and Neanderthals. This is a very nice result, and further analysis may help determine more details," says Dr. Nick Patterson, of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, a major researcher in human ancestry who was not involved in this study.

    So, speculates Dr. Labuda, did these exchanges contribute to our success across the world? "Variability is very important for long-term su
    rvival of a species," says Dr. Labuda. "Every addition to the genome can be enriching." 

    An interesting match, indeed.

    Comments

    Very interesting, thanks!

    So then we're not all 99.9% genetically alike?

    Hank
    We're 100% genetically alike, just organized differently.  If a million rock songs can be composed from 3 chords, D, C and G, you can imagine the awesome combinations A,C,G,T can produce in sequences.   

    However, to my knowledge I am the only one with the following peptide:

    rholley
    My father used to say that there were Neanderthal genes still around, and that he had seen a most Neanderthal-looking person on the London Underground.

    Here is a very nice German hymn composed by Joachim Neander (1650–1680), after whom the “Thal” (valley) was named.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    "he had seen a most Neanderthal-looking person on the London Underground"

    And you will actually have a brilliant opportunity to study social behavior of two rivalring tribes of Neanderthals this autumn before and after West Ham vs. Millwall darby...

    Hank
    Without Cardiff, it can't really be considered a valid overall analysis of neanderthals.
    What happens when the dominant cultural construction around an idea ( in this case the relative intelligence of human races, and related species) is demonstrated by science to be wrong? I find this article quite fascinating because here is one of those discoveries that turns ingrained cultural prejudices upside down.

    Prejudices die hard, and in the scientific community there is still a driving need to present scientific discoveries as support or rationalization of intellectual and cultural differences between ethnic and geographical groups. The idea that in the schoolyards of the world, African school-children can now point at everyone ELSE and call them "Neanderthals" is the ultimate last laugh as far as my own personal experiences are concerned. Lets see how quickly the text books get revised for this one.

    Notice the self-evident desperation in this paragraph from the article:

    "The question on everyone's mind has always been whether the physically stronger Neanderthals, who possessed the gene for language and may have played the flute, were a separate species or could have interbred with modern humans. The answer, says an international team of researchers writing in Molecular Biology and Evolution, is yes, the two lived in close association."

    And all this because of a few small pieces of chromosome! Suddenly, the Neanderthals are Freud, Mozart and Schwarzenegger (irony of ironies) all rolled into one. Now they must straighten their caricatured form to carry the mantle of Western Civilization. Quasimodo shrugs!

    The Neanderthals have always been European-- they have never been depicted with dark skin though this was until recently an arbitrary assignment only justified by the fact that they were first found in Germany. Genetic evidence from their genome however, seems to confirm that they could have been red headed and pale skinned.

    In the European cultural construct however, their big bones and broad features have always been pitted against the "refinement" of the modern Homo sapiens ( as exemplified by the other German archetype- the Aryan). They fit well into the 19th century "Ascent of Man" view of human evolution -- so much so that the dialectic with which we approached the sequencing of their genome in the 21st century was to see whether they were our direct ancestors or on another branch altogether-- did they interbreed and contribute to the European or were they the victims of a more aggressive and nimble (out of Africa) modern man?

    A popular news media rendition of this story might be entitled "Red heads and pale skin: from Nookie with Neanderthals?" or how about "Neandernegger : European superman had language, flute-playing and athletic prowess" ... Good thing News of the World is gone.