Study: Human-Neanderthal coupling rare

2011-09-13 10:31

Washington - Scientists have shown that modern humans have some traces of genes from Neanderthals, but a study out on Monday suggests that any breeding between the two was most likely a rare event.

The new computational model, based on DNA samples from modern humans in France and China, shows successful coupling happened at a rate of less than 2%.

The research suggests that either inter-species sex was very taboo, or that the hybrid offspring had trouble surviving, according to the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

There may have been "extremely strong barriers to gene flow between the two species because of a very low fitness of human-Neanderthal hybrids, a very strong avoidance of inter-specific mating, or a combination," said the study by researchers at the University of Geneva and the University of Berne in Switzerland.

Why did Neanderthals die out?

Between 2 and 4% of the human genome can be linked to the long-extinct Neanderthals and their cavemen relatives.

The squat, low-browed Neanderthals lived in parts of Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East for up to 300 000 years but all evidence of them disappears some 40 000 years ago, their last known refuge being Gibraltar.

Why they died out is a matter of some debate, because they co-existed alongside modern man.

A study by French researchers published in the journal Science last month suggested that modern humans gleaned a competitive immune advantage from their liaisons with cavemen.

However, scientists still have no evidence to suggest the nature of those sexual encounters, whether violent or consensual.

Previous studies have also suggested that Neanderthals were crowded out by modern humans, and that the death blow to their species may have been accelerated by a spate of harsh, wintry weather.

  • Poaul Zwarts - 2011-09-13 10:37 This links to a great talk on regarding this

      CTScientist - 2011-09-13 13:22


      AntonioP - 2011-09-23 15:06

      But do you think Fred Flintstone was a Neanderthal?

  • Fredster69 - 2011-09-13 11:28

    So we supposedly come from apes which are animals, and we all know that they mate very often. Now how do you explain this? There were no Neanderthals, it is a made up story that lives in the head of Charles Darwin (and his followers)

      Lacri - 2011-09-13 11:35

      What? That is such an incoherent remark that I don't even know what point you're trying to make?

      cromagnon - 2011-09-13 12:00

      Let me get this straight. Apes mate often, hence Neanderthals did not exists, regardless of the numerous skeletons thats been found? Even if Neandertal was an ape, you still would have made no sense.

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-13 13:21

      CTScientist - 2011-09-13 13:25

      It is a made up story with hundreds of Neanderthal fossils being nefariously placed under meters of earth by God. He even decided to throw us off the scent by giving us 'DNA evidence' which highlighted the genetic relationship between modern human populations and modern Homo sapiens. If those are the actions of your God, I worry for your soul. ;) You, sir, need some help. And it is not the religious kind. Logic and reason are clearly beyond you.

      Dr. No - 2011-09-13 14:29

      Fredster, putting 69 behind your name is so eighties and is obviously a reference to your proclivity for a certain sexual position. With that in mind it is hopeful that because of it you will never reproduce and thereby ending your bloodline and with that venerate however ironic or unwittingly the theory of natural selection.

      CTScientist - 2011-09-13 14:44

      My earlier post, I meant Neanderthals and modern Homo sapiens. Not modern humans and modern Homo sapiens. :P And Dr. No makes a compelling argument!

      handbanana - 2011-09-13 14:52

      ahahahaha! @ Dr. No

      Fredster69 - 2011-09-13 15:08

      @Dr No, FYI, and mind out the gutter please, it is acyually the year I was born in. For CTScientist, my God is your God as well, and I hope that you find Him soon.

      CTScientist - 2011-09-13 15:44

      @ Fredster69: That is a startling assumption to make, considering the sheer variety in Gods and Goddesses I have to choose from. And I also believe there is a certain degree of agency afforded to the individual in these matters. We are all free, are we not, to make our own choices? So trust me when I say that there is no way that we share a two thousand year old ideology. While you are welcome to it, I think I'd rather pass.

      Oxygen - 2011-09-13 15:57

      And I suppose god made you, hey.

      LloydSix - 2011-09-13 16:11

      Hows about doing some research before spewing this utter nonsense. Your comment is waay of track and you clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

      Badballie - 2011-09-14 11:12

      Neanderthal is the collective name given to a specific type of being who's skeletal remains are un-refuted and well documented. Although no specific data or history remains of this early race, it is known that their bone density and cranial cavities were of a size which suggests a bigger strong and more intelligent species to the remains of other humanoid entities found from the same time periods. Although Darwins basic understanding and assumptions are questioned, and to a large extent recognized as having a "missing piece" it would be very narrow minded not to recognize his achievements in bring humankind a better understanding of the process of evolution. You unblinking acceptance of religious dogma does you a disservice and limits your understanding of the world and its inhabitants. who are you to imply or set time lines in the name of any God? The bible refers to God as being eternal, it also specifies human concepts in the form of time spans, If God created the world in seven days and science says it took 40 million years who are you to say that the time-frames are not exactly the same from the perspective of the individuals involved i.e seven days to God is 40 million years to us?

      AntonioP - 2011-09-23 13:26

      Haha, soo funny. What is a simian like Fredster69 doing on a sci-page like this? I think it's high time that people such as Fredster69 should start their own branch of hominids. I resent being classified together with them.

      AntonioP - 2011-09-23 15:11

      Dr. No - September 13, 2011 at 08:29 You are wrong. It has nothing to with that 69 is his IQ, on a good day, with the wind in his back

  • Verbatim - 2011-09-13 11:28

    so mixed couples were frowned on back then too.....

  • Goofster - 2011-09-13 11:50

    Seems that segregation has been around for longer than what we originally thought.

  • Craig - 2011-09-13 12:19

    I think Jean M Auel got it right in Clan of the Cave Bear and the other 98 books in that trilogy.

      trevb - 2011-09-13 13:30

      6 books and what a series of books .! started reading them 25 years ago and have recently got the the final book !

      sardonicus - 2011-09-13 15:05

      That sure came to mind while I read this! Have you watched the movie? It stars Darryl Hannah as Ayla, I wish they'd do more movies from that series.

  • SimonB - 2011-09-13 12:27

    So why is the Media and Hollywood bombarding us to 'Race Mix & Adopt a Sipho'...

  • TextOfReason - 2011-09-13 12:35

    If you think this is interesting then you should check out the results of the newly extracted mitochondrial DNA in the Starchild skull. If the idea of humans being partly a cross breed is startling to you then this will flip your lid. You don't have to believe but you should probably question.

      CTScientist - 2011-09-13 13:30

      Pity that all the earlier tests revealed that the DNA was, in fact, human. And that the child belongs to Haplotype Group C. Pseudoarchaeology alert.

  • AntonioP - 2011-09-23 13:14

    Rare -or at least rarer than human-dog couplings in SA.

  • AntonioP - 2011-09-23 14:13

    A bit of additional comment: Africans are the one group that did not interbreed with species such as H. neanderthalens and H. floresiensis (hobbit people) as found in Asia. No such mitochondrial DNA can be found in them -unless "back-breeding" with Europeans occurred. (Skande!) Exhaustive statistical evidence has also shown that they score on average 25 - 35 point less in IQ tests. (And yes, the Chinese are more clever than us, by 11 points.) From this it can be deduced that for your average H. erectus, coming out of Africa, it was a good idea to favourably cast one's eye on the comely neanderthalensis and floresiensis chicks -we got more viable through this! I love it when a plan comes apart. Phansi to all political correct idiot-anthropologist who say that "race is a human construct" it's in our mitochondrial DNA nogal!

  • pages:
  • 1