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Neanderthal DNA in modern humans

Discussion in 'Science & Technology' started by Winner, Jan 30, 2014.

  1. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    So I read a recent article on BBC.

    Am I understanding it correctly that we're approaching what many have suspected before, i.e. that some of the typically "European" physical traits such as fair skin (and generally lower levels of pigmentation, incl. hair and eyes), sometimes stockier and more muscular builds, and often greater amounts of body hair may have been inherited, at least in part, from the "aboriginal" Europeans, that is the Neanderthals?

     
  2. uppi

    uppi Warlord

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    Must be a very recent article, because one of the papers they are talking about was published yesterday:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12961.html

    They say their data shows that Neanderthal genes in modern Europeans and Asians are not equally distributed across the genome, but there are regions where they are concentrated and others where there is almost no influence. They attribute this to positive (in the case of regions responsible for skin and hair) and negative (regions responsible for reproduction) selection pressure. They deduce from the negative selection pressure on reproductive regions, that Neanderthal genes were bad for reproduction, with a high chance of infertility for (especially male) hybrids.

    That Neanderthals were better adapted to life in the north and that these genes were selected for makes sense. In my opinion it is more interesting that Neanderthals and modern humans were just barely able to reproduce together, so they were more a distinct species of their own instead of a subspecies of modern humans.
     
  3. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    I am interested in this partly because of the controversy (surprise surprise) concerning the skin-colour of modern Europeans.

    From what I read, there is zero consensus on where did the fairly fair (pun) skin appear and why. I've seen wildly different claims - i.e., that since fair skin allegedly has a lot to do with combating vitamin D deficiency, it must have appeared almost immediately (in evolutionary terms) after modern humans moved to Europe. Then I read something completely different, where they claim that it is a fairly recent development (last 10,000 years or even as late as 3,000 B.C.E.). Just a few days ago, there was an article on BBC about a piece of ancient modern human hunter-gatherer DNA from Spain from a few thousand years age, whose analysis shows the guy was fairly dark skinned.

    But this article suggests that adaptation to northern, colder climates such as fairer skin may have been sped up by Neanderthal genes. That would suggest modern humans went fairly white very early on, i.e. 40-30 thousand years ago.

    My orderly mind dislikes this uncertainty and chaos.
     
  4. peter grimes

    peter grimes ... Moderator

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    I didn't realize there were competing explanations for skin tone. I had always thought the vitamin D model explained the gradient from equator to pole pretty well.
     
  5. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    It explains it (= few dispute that it is the main evolutionary driving force behind skin tone), but some claim it insufficient for explaining the extreme variations between Northern Europe and equatorial Africa.

    I remember reading one article though which claimed that even equatorial Africans living in Scandinavia will have no trouble producing enough vitamin D from exposure to the sun to prevent disease significant in terms of natural selection. Don't know how accurate that was or what research it was based on, though.

    Mostly the dispute is about how fast it happened.
     
  6. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton How much Parmesan to put on your umbrella?

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    So the crying-out-loud implication I see - ferry skins are infused with Neanderthal genes and hence are what they are in contrast to dark skins. Proving how white (whereas white includes yellows here I guess?) and black people are "remarkable" different beyond mere looks.
    So much to the with racism loaded implication.
    Racism or not - this is really intriguing - thanks for sharing :)
     
  7. uppi

    uppi Warlord

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    Actually, I would go for the opposite conclusion: Neandertal* genes have accumulated mainly in regions affecting the outside appearance, while the rest of the genome of Europeans and Asians still resembles that of their African ancestors. So I would say, Europeans and Asians are much more similar to each other than they look to be at first glance.

    *By the way, what is the correct spelling in English anyway? Nature spells in Neanderthal and Science spells it Neandertal.
     
  8. Daird

    Daird Chieftain

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    For what it's worth, this particular paleo geek has never seen it without the h
     
  9. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    Neandertal is more correct, but the "th" spelling is very common and personally, I like it better.

    I've actually seen some pretty dumb posts by blacks basically saying that this only proves that whites are the scum of the Earth ape-man trash; then you see their white-supremacist colleagues claiming that what we've got from the Neanderthals were genes for bigger brains which confirms their theory that White people are naturally superior.

    It's all rubbish, of course.

    Neanderthals had lived in Europe for hundreds of thousands of years before the arrival of anatomically modern humans. It makes every sense that their bodies have adapted to the environment, and that some of those genes when passed on to Homo sp. sapiens conveyed significant advantages - immunity to certain pathogens, more muscles, perhaps more facial hair (not useless in ice-age Europe), fairer skin producing more vitamin D, etc. These traits were naturally selected for, rapidly spreading among the Homo sp. sapiens colonists.

    Neanderthals themselves might have died out due to habitat loss and fragmentation of their population, or simply be "swamped" by modern humans and their much larger populations and basically assimilated and bred out. What matters is that their 'genetic legacy' lives on in modern Europeans and Asians and their descendants on other continents.

    So much for the 100% replacement model.
     
  10. asbestos

    asbestos Chieftain

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    White people got the gene that prevents being cool.
     
  11. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    How very scientific of you. The Neandertal (=Neander Valley, the Neander is a small river in Germany) is the name after which the Neandertalers were named, following a palaeological find there. So, Neandertal is correct, Neanderthal is a misspelling.
     
  12. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    It has nothing to do with being scientific, just linguistic preference. I.e. if enough people are wrong about the way they pronounce/spell a word, they become right. In English, both spellings are used and therefore it's up to you to choose which you like best. Arguing about which one is better is a waste of time.

    In Czech though, I use the 'correct' form because there is no other (= člověk neandertálský; neandrtálec).
     
  13. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    AFAIK linguistics is in itself a science. Misspelling something doesn't make it any less correct.
     
  14. Loppan Torkel

    Loppan Torkel Chieftain

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  15. Gigaz

    Gigaz civoholic

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    So, could one breed back a Neandertal from modern humans? ;)
     
  16. uppi

    uppi Warlord

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    It is not that easy. When that find was made, the valley was spelled as Neanderthal and that is the spelling the name was derived from. A subsequent spelling reform (which there were a few for German, and which English is in dire need of) dropped the h, so today the valley is called Neandertal. Thus Neanderthal is not a misspelling but an archaic spelling.

    Personally, I prefer the spelling without the h, because that one does not suggest to pronounce the th like a th sound in English, which would be very wrong.

    I don't think so. As the studies have shown, there are large gaps in the part of the Neandertal genome that has been preserved in the modern human genome. You are not going to get those missing genes back by breeding. You could get someone who would be much closer to a Neandertal than a regular modern human, but not a full Neandertal.

    To get a full Neandertal, one could think of cloning. When cloning of humans becomes possible, one could try to do the same procedure with Neandertal DNA.

    Edit: I think, the ethics involved in such experiments would deserve their own thread.
     
  17. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    Attempting cloning from the fragments of Neanderthal DNA recovered from fossil bones would be madness.

    But I wonder if, since Neanderthals and modern humans share the vast majority of genes, it could be possible to 'infuse' just those which are different and have such a genetically modified embryo be carried to term by a human mother.

    Ethically, well, that's for another debate, but observing a living Neanderthal (or a close approximation of him) grow up and behave would tell us more about them than all our previous research taken together.
     
  18. peter grimes

    peter grimes ... Moderator

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    All you would really be able to observe is how a Neandertal raises in modern times behaves - that won't tell you much at all about the archaic population.

    Consider the opposite: take a modern human infant and plop in down with a Neandertal clan. It's not going to grow up doing the things we do, and any observer would not be able to draw correct conclusions about us from the time-child.
     
  19. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

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    Well obviously the child won't dressed in fur and hunt with spears if you don't teach him.

    But the way he learns, speak, conceptualize and do the other things which depend on how your brain and body work, that would tell us a lot about what the Neanderthals were like.
     
  20. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton How much Parmesan to put on your umbrella?

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    It makes kinda sense though.
    I recently read a piece by Domen where it was said that meat versus grain intake influenced brain size.
    I am no biologist at all but it sounds plausible to me that a diet resting on the ability to hunt and way moreover resting on high protein intake - it sounds plausible to me that this kind of lifestyle means larger brains than feeding on grains.
    So this explains the larger brains of Neandertal and it would also explain bigger brains of northern versus southern people.

    I realize how offense this sounds - but frankly as a person who sees our race as villains for the way it treats animals racial concerns are on the fringe to me and truth-searching in comparison on the prime.
    That said - I am not actually knowledgeable about the feeding habits of say central Africans. However - I suspect they had lower protein intake.
     

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