If your heritage is non-African, you are part Neanderthal, according to a new study in the July issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution. Discovery
News has been reporting on human/Neanderthal interbreeding for some time now, so this latest research confirms earlier findings.
It was recently confirmed. Modern man (Cro Magnon, precursor of Homo Sapiens) interbred with Homo Neanderthalensis.
The results show that 2% to 5% of our DNA stems from Neanderthals. This was discovered when the Neanderthal genome was finally sequenced in 2010.
This in itself is a fairly spectacular discovery, but there's another twist to it. Only the Cro Magnons that moved into Europe (and the Near East)
interbred with the Neanderthals (who's habitat was basically Europe, and in theory never spread further than the Middle East). These populations then
spread over the Eurasian continent, then furthered themselves to the remaining continents. This migration route never led below Sub-saharan Africa
though, because here, the Neanderthal DNA is absent in the current populations.
In short, Europeans (Caucasians) and Asians carry the Neanderthal DNA, but sub-Saharan (black) Africans don't. It depends a little on how we consider
human species and evolution, but you could say that sub-Saharan Africans are purely Homo Sapiens, while Europeans and Asians are a hybrid mix between
Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals. At 2% to 5%, the Neanderthal influence could be considered marginal, but it still has implications on how we consider
race, since humanity no longer can be said to be genetically homogenous.
Now, before moralists rush in to criticize, let me point out that there are no whatsoever racist ideas behind it. Racism by definition is an ideology
about racial ideals, and how a certain race or races can be considered superior to other races, and or should be segregated from them. While I do
consider that we are all equal as human beings, I do however believe that we are different genetically, and that we do not need to suppress the
recognition of that difference in order to establish that we're equal. After all, men and women can be different, and even cherish those differences,
and still (should) be equal as human beings, no?
What I'm after is something different; the true nature of Neanderthal man. For long he has been portrayed as a kind of primitive, inferior lineage in
the evolution of mankind, that died out because of his 'incapacity' to adapt to new conditions (isn't that in itself a racist attitude?). The main
basis for these assumptions is that he started to disappear as Homo Sapiens entered his territory, and disappeared all together after about 10 000
years of co-habitation.
My question is, can we learn more about Neanderthals by studying physical, mental and cultural attributes of Caucasian and Asian populations, and
compare them to equivalent attributes of sub-Saharan Africans?
2% to 5% of Neanderthal influence may not sound like much, but consider this. We know through research on the Neanderthal genome, that Neanderthals
had white skin and brown/blond/reddish hair (at least much of the European Neanderthal populations did). Is it pure coincidence that we find white
skinned, brown/blond/red haired Homo Sapiens today in the same regions of Europe where they once co-existed with Neanderthals? Science has a tendency
to write this off as genetic adaption, in effect natural loss of pigmentation in hair and skin due to less exposure to sunlight. Although, science has
yet to explain why Inuits and Eskimos, who live in arctic regions, are not developing white skin and blonde hair, or why certain north African
populations (of European ancestry) still have blond hair and green/blue eyes if evolution works as they claim.
So, it is fair to theorize that modern Europeans have acquired the skin and hair color, and probably much of the facial characteristics from
interbreeding with Neanderthals. What else did they possibly get from their Neanderthal ancestors? How about a bigger brain?
Studies of Neanderthal skulls show that – on an average – the Neanderthal brain was slightly larger than that of Homo Sapiens. The capacity of the
Neanderthal brain in terms of size was between 1,350 and 1,700 cubic centimeters with the average being 1,400 to 1,450 cubic cm. The mean cranial
capacity of modern man (all races included) is 1,370 cubic cm, with a range of 950 to 2,200 cubic cm.
When we compare average brain size between Caucasian, Asian and African populations, we find that there is equally a difference. By adulthood, East
Asians average 16 cubic cm more cranial capacity than Caucasians, who average 82 cubic cm more than sub-Saharan Africans.
Is it pure coincidence that the Homo sapiens that interbred with a parallel species of humans with an average larger brain capacity, has an average
larger brain capacity than the Homo Sapiens that didn't?
I realize that this flies in the face of a lot of people, and that much of the criticism this text will get will focus on this postulation.
Nevertheless, this is what a large body of research on the subject shows, and somehow we will have to deal with the data, rather than ignore it or
consider it faulty or incomplete just because it doesn't show what we would like it to show. Once again, I do not value my friends because of their
skull and brain size, neither because of their physical appearance, nor racial/cultural belonging. IMO, we shouldn't value any human being on these
edit on 27-7-2011 by Heliocentric because: (no reason given)