We Are Part Neanderthal – But Which Parts?

 OUR ANCIENT PASTGirl-neanderthals

JUST WHO WERE THE NEANDERTHALS?  These people left Africa 200,000 years ago. They were very similar to modern humans, with a somewhat larger, but differently shaped brain. They thrived all over Europe and Asia until our arrival 50,000 years ago. 10,000 later years ago, they were gone, or were they? Recent very clever DNA sequencing has concluded that non-African humans share 1-4% DNA with the Neanderthals. There is one and only one way to ‘get’ DNA. So somewhere, in some ancient forest, Neanderthal-human offspring were at play. Mitochondrial DNA is maternally transmitted only, and ours differs from the Neanderthal, which would mean that any offspring that went on to produce more offspring were girls.

One of several definitions of species is the ability to conceive fertile offspring. The Neanderthal-human ancestry fulfills this, but only partly. Four percent DNA is a fair amount. If a Caucasian had a Chinese great-great-great grandparent, they would be 3% Asian. What did some of us get from our Neanderthals ancestors? Blond and red hair, blue eyes, and excessive hairiness are strong possibilities. In all this genetic investigation, another unknown ancient man turned up, which they are calling Denisovians. We are 4% of this group too, though we know practically nothing about them, no fossils having been found.

Think twice next time you call someone a Neanderthal.

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