Anthropologist Erik Trinkaus has been studying the genetic traits of human ancestors for several decades and has come to the conclusion that
Neanderthals are not the odd man out on the family tree. We are. He has found that we have more specific traits that are unique to us than any other
member of our family tree and that the Neanderthal form is more typical of the species homo.
Neanderthals are often thought of as the stray branch in the human family tree, but research now suggests the modern human is likely the odd man
"What people tend to do is draw a line from our ancestors straight to ourselves, and any group that doesn't seem to fit on that line is divergent,
distinct, unusual, strange," researcher Erik Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, told LiveScience today. "But in terms
of evolution of our family tree, the genus Homo, we're the outliers and the Neanderthals are more toward the core."
Humans are not at the inevitable end of a sequence, Trinkaus said. "It just happens that we happen to be alive today and Neanderthals are not."
Trinkaus spent decades examining fossil skeletons and over time realized that maybe researchers looked at Neanderthals the wrong way. Over the last
two years, he systematically combed through fossils, comparing Neanderthal and modern human skull, jaw, tooth, arm, leg traits with those of the
earliest members of the genus Homo in terms of their shape.
"I wanted to see to what extent Neanderthals are derived, that is distinct, from the ancestral form. I also wanted to see the extent to which modern
humans are derived relative to the ancestral form," Trinkaus said.
Trinkaus focused on skeletal features that seemed most strongly linked to genetics, as opposed to any traits that might get influenced by lifestyle,
environment or wear and tear.
When compared with our common ancestors, Trinkaus discovered modern humans have roughly twice as many uniquely distinct traits as Neanderthals. In
other words, Neanderthals are more like the other members of our family tree than modern humans are.
"In the broader sweep of human evolution, the more unusual group is not Neanderthals, whom we tend to look at as strange, weird and unusual, but it's
us, modern humans," Trinkaus said.
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I have always said an ancestor of ours fell out of his tree one day and landed on his head and the whole species hasn't been right since. Finally
there's proof! It has always been odd....you look at the sculls of say homo erectus and Neanderthal and the family resemblance is striking. But
compare those two with a modern Homo Sapian and and it is the modern scull stands out. Now it is suggested that we, not the Neanderthals are the
mutants. Like I said...!
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