Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Piecing Together the Neanderthal Puzzle

In 1856, a set of remains were found in the Neander Valley in Germany that stumped scientists. While the remains appeared to be human, the bones were too hefty and the brow was too robust to be that of the modern human. After eight years of deliberation scientists determined that these remains were the first evidence of a whole different human species, the homo neanderthalensis.

A new study, published in Science Advances, suggests that the DNA of two ancient Neanderthals who lived 120,000 years ago have more similar genetics to the last of their species that died out rather than other 120,000 year old bones found in the region. What is even more puzzling is that one of the ancient Neanderthals who was studied had some unusual DNA with over 70 mutations that distinguished it, hinting at interactions with another hominin group that has not been discovered yet.

It was previously thought that the Neanderthals were a gentically well mixed species, but the data that pointed to this genetic similarity largely came from 40,000 years ago which was around the time that all Neanderthals became extinct. All of this evidence suggests that these two ancient Neanderthals that were recently discovered may have been apart of the group that gave rise to all currently identified Neanderthals that became extinct around 40,000 years ago.

Some of the oldest Neanderthal bones

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