A Nature/Science pair of papers on Neanderthal genetics!
Links in there to the papers, but the summary is:
– One paper suggests that while modern humans have few Neanderthal genes individually, up to 20% of the species genome collectively is actually composed of Neanderthal genes.
– The second looks instead at different regions of the modern human genome and the relative Neanderthal influence on these. This is highly variable, with some areas heavily influenced and others not at all. Keratin is one of the heavily influenced areas, so links to skin, hair etc. The X chromosome is almost devoid of Neanderthal influence, suggesting that hybrid males would have been partly or wholly infertile – only some 36 years after Bjorn Kurten suggested exactly this with his ‘Children of the Gods’!
U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain
Paleolithic cave art is an exceptional archive of early human symbolic behavior, but because obtaining reliable dates has been difficult, its chronology is still poorly understood after more than a century of study. We present uranium-series disequilibrium dates of calcite deposits overlying or underlying art found in 11 caves, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo, and Tito Bustillo, Spain. The results demonstrate that the tradition of decorating caves extends back at least to the Early Aurignacian period, with minimum ages of 40.8 thousand years for a red disk, 37.3 thousand years for a hand stencil, and 35.6 thousand years for a claviform-like symbol. These minimum ages reveal either that cave art was a part of the cultural repertoire of the first anatomically modern humans in Europe or that perhaps Neandertals also engaged in painting caves.
Interesting! Shows that we don’t not nearly enough about this stuff yet…
Neanderthals were already on the verge of extinction in Europe by the time modern humans arrived on the scene, a study suggests.
the actual paper:
Ever wondered what Neanderthals looked like? Or how they walked? Well wonder no more with the London Natural History Museum website’s new augmented reality (AR) Neanderthal.
All you need is a printer and a webcam to see a 3D Neanderthal walk about on your desk, and stop for a stretch, through your computer screen.
Laura K. Säilä, PhD
Grzegorz Skrzypek, Andrzej Wiśniewski, Pauline F. Grierson
Quaternary Science Reviews
Volume 30, Issues 5-6, March 2011, Pages 481-487
Precise estimates of mean annual temperature (MAT) for when Neanderthals occupied Central Europe are critical for understanding the role that climatic and associated environmental factors played in Neanderthal migrations and in their ultimate extinction. Neanderthals were continuously present in the relatively warm regions of southern and Western Europe in the Pleistocene but only temporarily settled Central Europe (CE), presumably because of its colder and less hospitable climate. Here, we present a new approach for more spatially and temporally accurate estimation of palaeotemperatures based on the stable oxygen isotope composition of phosphates extracted from animal teeth found at sites linked directly to concurrent Neanderthal occupation. We provide evidence that Neanderthals migrated along the Odra Valley of CE during warmer periods throughout the Upper Pleistocene. The MATs during these migrations were about 6.8 °C for the warm phase of Oxygen Isotope Stage OIS 5a–d (prior to the OIS4 cold event) at not, vert, similar115–74,000 yr BP and about 6.3 °C during the early OIS 3 warm phase not, vert, similar59–41,000 yr BP. Our results show that temperatures during these phases peaked 2–4 °C above longer term estimates from ice cores and pollen records. We argue that our approach can provide valuable insights into evaluating the role of climate in human migration patterns in the Pleistocene.
Archaeologists have found what they say is the earliest evidence of Neanderthals living in Britain.
Science 7 May 2010:
Vol. 328. no. 5979, pp. 710 – 722
A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome
Richard E. Green et al.
Neandertals, the closest evolutionary relatives of present-day humans, lived in large parts of Europe and western Asia before disappearing 30,000 years ago. We present a draft sequence of the Neandertal genome composed of more than 4 billion nucleotides from three individuals. Comparisons of the Neandertal genome to the genomes of five present-day humans from different parts of the world identify a number of genomic regions that may have been affected by positive selection in ancestral modern humans, including genes involved in metabolism and in cognitive and skeletal development. We show that Neandertals shared more genetic variants with present-day humans in Eurasia than with present-day humans in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that gene flow from Neandertals into the ancestors of non-Africans occurred before the divergence of Eurasian groups from each other.
Laura K. Säilä, PhD