So it’s great to think we all came from the same person, the mitochondrial Eve. Maybe we did or maybe we didn’t, but Eve was not the only one out there. We were not alone. Surprisingly, we were only one of at least five subspecies of humans, though scientist have not settled the argument yet of how exactly all these people running around on the earth hundreds of thousands of years ago were related. Were they different species, subspecies, or same species?
Here’s a little tidbit of fact to blow your mind… Neanderthals and ancient Homo Sapiens were more related to each other than we modern humans are related to ancient Homo Sapiens. Which means that even though Neanderthals and ancient Homo Sapiens could breed, it’s possible that we would not be able to breed with our own ancient ancestors.
It’s a well documented fact that we have Neanderthal DNA in our makeup. How it got there is also up for debate. Some hold with the theory that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens came from the same ancestor while others believe that there was interbreeding. DNA studies suggest that there were several (at least three) periods of interbreeding. Neanderthals were already in Eurasia when Homo Sapiens packed their bags and headed north and since Neanderthals were all across Eurasia they were met all along the way and across the millennium of years that it took the northern Homo Sapiens to settle in and become Eurasian themselves.
courtesy of The BBC
Neanderthals have gotten a bad rap since the day they were dubbed Homo Stupidus by Ernst Haeckel. Finally they may be getting the respect they deserve. They lived during a time when Homo Sapians were in the area and scientist are thinking now there wasn’t much difference in the way Homo Sapian and Neanderthals lived. They both created art, both painted thier bodies, both buried their dead, and both had a language. Stone age man has been seen in the past as unintelligent cave dwelling unthinking, unspeaking creatures, but science is proving today that both Homo species were more advanced than we gave them credit for.
Courtesy of Christian Science Monitor
Although Scientist have sequenced the Neanderthal DNA they are still learning exactly what it all means, and how it affects us today. Neanderthals were light skinned, with fair hair and light eyes. They had lived in the north a very long time before the arrival of their southern cousins and had already adapted to the cold and the weaker sun. Did the new arrivals make the same changes once they arrived or did they get their Eurasian features from the Neanderthal? it’s not just features that we may have inherited. Scientist believe that we may have inherited our immunity from Neanderthal, as well as obesity, heart attacks, depression and oddly enough, nicotine addiction. So if you’re having trouble quitting, blame it on your Neanderthal ancestor…
Or did we get it from somewhere else? In 2008 in a cave in Siberia human remains were found. Their genetic makeup was not Neanderthal or Homo Sapiens. A third human was found, and one that lived during the same period with the other two. They were given the name Denisovans. Here’s the kicker… Although these remains were found in Siberia, genetic studies show that the only people today with that DNA sequence live in the southern pacific Islands of Melanesia.
Let’s see, we’re up to three human subspecies living on earth at the same time. Now we have to add Homo floresiensis (The Hobbit) found in Indonesia and now there is a new mysterious one also found in Eurasia who interbred with the Denisovans.
So, I’m wondering, will we find out in a few decades that we are not Homo Sapiens after all, but a mixed breed mutt made up of bits and pieces of DNA from many different types of humans who all lived and shared the same world…Something to think about!