back to article Gene boffins: Yes, you. Staring at the screen. You're a NEANDERTHAL

Humanity is still hanging on to over 20 per cent of the Neanderthal genome, which influences modern attributes from skin and hair to nicotine addiction and diseases. Neanderthal display in museum Over 30,000 years ago groups of Homo sapiens migrating out of Africa started running into Neanderthals, who had diverged from …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "You're a NEANDERTHAL"

    I always knew it. Well, anyway, ever since the missus told me.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      Re: "You're a NEANDERTHAL"

      You know you're an Neanderthal when you have to shave your knuckles.

      1. Dagg Silver badge

        Re: "You're a NEANDERTHAL"

        No you don't! The hair comes off as they drag along the ground!

    2. Lars Silver badge

      Re: "You're a NEANDERTHAL"

      Time for a counter attack, perhaps.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Science Express

    Is this the red-top Boffin tabloid with a picture on Page 3 of a busty, but toothy, lab-assistant wearing little more than a buttoned up lab coat and a pair of wellingtons?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Science Express

      No. Science Express is the boffin tabloid that believes that asylum seeking neanderthals murdered Diana while living on benefits that should go to native Homo Sapiens - thus lowering house prices.

  3. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    So, we are all descendants of some perverts who used to have sex and interbreed with another species???

    Why has nobody reported them to the police?

    Didn't anyone think of the children???

    1. Piers

      Re: Disgusting!

      Er - I hate to say this, but it looks like we ARE the children...

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Disgusting!

        "I hate to say this, but it looks like we ARE the children..."

        Oh, my! That just caused me an intolerable moral trauma and hardship! I want an immediate apology from the Government and a con-pay-sayshun!

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Disgusting!

      Apparently they did think of the children. The neanderthal children. Bummer.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hi handsome

    So we got our good looks from the Neanderthal, the proverbial ugly. That's brilliant.

    And it is going to set the cat among the pigeons with the white supremacy people. Which is even better. 'We are the best because we are more caveman than them."

    1. Grikath

      Re: Hi handsome

      Only if you take as the "proverbial ugly" the image people have with this particular species, who actually looked very much like us, to the point of being well into racial variance within H. Sap. Sap. ( aka: us ourselves) in looks and build.

      The infertility issue makes it even more interesting: The article states that male offspring would most likely have been infertile. Females, however, obviously were not, else the gene lines would not have merged.

      The fact that those lines have survived in such abundance tells us that not only were those females genetically "fitter" , they were actually more desireable and "beautiful" to at least the eyes of our species' males, because else those gene combo's would never have propagated in the gene pool.

      1. Scott Pedigo

        Re: Hi handsome

        "... they were actually more desireable and "beautiful" to at least the eyes of our species' males..."

        Now if the scientists would kindly correlate the time frame with the discovery of fermentation, there might be an explanation.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Hi handsome

        "The fact that those lines have survived in such abundance tells us that not only were those females genetically "fitter" , they were actually more desireable and "beautiful" to at least the eyes of our species' males, because else those gene combo's would never have propagated in the gene pool."

        I think you're ignoring the fact that human males will shag anything with a hole. (Your "fitness" argument only applies after conception, to the offspring.)

  5. Red Bren

    Define extinction

    If neanderthal genes make up a sustainable 20% of human DNA, why are they described as extinct? There may not be any genetically "pure" neanderthals around but are there any genetically "pure" humans either? Even the most rabid white supremacist will have some surprises in their generic make-up.

    1. Christoph

      Re: Define extinction

      There's 'pure' humans in Africa - the ones who didn't move out, and didn't meet the Neanderthals or the Denisovans. Yes, those N******* are the pure bred ones, and it looks like the white skin of Europeans came from the Neanderthals :-)

      1. Joe User

        Re: Define extinction

        Those African humans had interbred with other human ancestors, so there really is no such thing as "pure" human.

    2. MondoMan

      Not 20%, rather 2% *per individual*

      What the Reg hack didn't make clear here is that each modern individual's genome only has around 2% (roughly 0-4% range) of Neanderthal DNA. *Which* 2% varies from person to person; among the whole set of modern people sequenced (perhaps a few thousand?), all their Neanderthal DNA when grouped together comes from about 20% of the Neanderthal genome. Some parts of the Neanderthal genome are found again and again in different modern individuals, suggesting that they conferred some regional survival advantage over the African sequences that would otherwise be found in those locations.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: Not 20%, rather 2% *per individual*

        > each modern individual's genome only has around 2% (roughly 0-4% range) of Neanderthal DNA

        Ah, no. This new study puts it at 20%. And truth be told that's still probably an underestimate -- the importance of interbreeding between the recent african emigrants and prior archaic humans already living in Europe and Asia has steadily increased since Pääbo in the 80's "proved" that Neanderthals were a separate species which never interbred with H. sapiens at all.

    3. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Define extinction

      Better forget all about "pure". Hitler comes to my mind too easily.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Define extinction

        Well, at the end of the day, Hitler was right.

        "Aryans" are "different" than humans. At this point we're not talking enough to be a species-level difference...but selective breeding across a not-very-many number of generations would probably be able to accomplish a distinct speciation between Aryans and Humans.

        I don't agree with the Nazi concept of placing a value judgement on "us" versus "them". Who gets to decide which (sub)(sub)species is better? On what basis? Why does one have to be "better" in the first place? This sort of racial disharmony I don't understand at all.

        But from a purely scientific standpoint, there is a difference between "Aryans" - or at least a significant subset of them - and pure-strain humans.

        "Aryans" are far more likely to contain certain genes. Lactose tolerance, pale skin, that one that conferred immunity to the plague and now confers immunity to HIV. Similarly, pure-strain humans are more likely to have things like sickle-cell anemia. (These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.)

        Asians (but not all, apparently) might also be broken into a third sub-subspecies, as they have Denisovan DNA. What advantages did that confer to them? What disadvantages?

        Hitler chose to view these genetic deltas as something that had ethical or moral implications. The race he identified with - "Aryans" - was "better" than others. Why, I honestly don't know. I never understood that type of thinking...but the fact that some people in our history - and our present - choose to think like this absolutely should not prevent us from thinking about human speciation, subspeciation or the real-world implications of genetic trait propagation.

        A great example here is the immunity to HIV. "Pure" Africans don't seem to have it. So far as I know we've only detected it in a few Europeans. There's a really good chance that this particular mutation is in fact some remnant Neandertal DNA. If so, we should start testing Asians for it to see where the branching point was.

        This mutation is rare; Europeans only seem to have it in any number because it was related to plague immunity and a lot of those without it died off. Maybe there would be long-term species-level benefits in encouraging those with the trait to seek mates amongst populations where it is not present. It wouldn't solve problems today, but it might make a difference 100 generations from now, offering those populations a greater chance of survival, thus potentially preserving a more diverse human gene pool after $deity only knows what the next plague will be.

        Like Hitler, I think studying populations to determine origins and amount of genetic mixing is important. Unlike Hitler, I don't think it's important so that we can keep these populations "pure". I think it's important so that we can encourage strategic genetic mixing so as to create the broadest possible genetic diversity in the hopes of ultimately having a species more capable of coping with unknown future bottleneck events.

        "Pure" matters, because "pure" generally means "less likely to adapt." Hybrid vigor, man. Embrace the future!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Define "Aryans"

          What exactly are "Aryans" in **taxonomic** terms?

          The point is not that they are not better (or worse) than $other_taxonomic_unit, but that they are not a taxonomic unit at all.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: Define "Aryans"

            Well, I lack a better term than "Aryans". Let me define it for you as I understand the term. For me, "Aryan" would be a people of indo-european descent whose meets the following criteria:

            1) Mostly stayed in Europe/Middle East after the Indian/European split

            2) Did not do much in the way of mixing with the mongols when they were a-invading

            3) Did not do much in the way of mixing with the moors when they were a-invading

            4) No mixing with East or South Asian peoples after about 10,000 BCE

            5) No mixing pretty much at any point with Polynesians or Aborigine peoples

            That doesn't leave a hell of a lot of people. Celts/Gauls (Hallstatt and La Tène) pre-moor invasion would seem to qualify as they would have been the most isolated Indo-European peoples.

            Germanic tribes and Nordic countries are probably a safe bet. Slavic nations I'm a little unsure about, as their populations saw a lot of mixing with mongolians not too far back. Alexander the Great also did a rather good job of muddying the waters on this, what with sewing his seed to and fro.

            More scientifically, it's a neat way of packaging up populations dominated by Y haplogroups R1a, R1b I1, I2a, I2b, N1c, N1b, and N1c without much in the way of genetic influence from the surrounding Y haplogroups Cx, Ex, Fx, Gx, and Jx. (The other haplogroups, to my knowledge, never really having "bordered" the "Aryans" so the genetic mixing being even less frequent and likely.)

            Right up until the end of the neolithic gene flow didn't seem to happen that fast. Humans were still speciating. natural selection was still "a thing". Since the end of the neolithic we seem to have mostly stopped evolving gross phenotypic variations due to hybridisation. Genetic variance seems to be largely down to mutation and selection-by-disease. (As opposed to climate, scarcity, etc.)

            Some of that is probably down to "the neolithic wasn't all that long go", so populations that defined the end of that era remained mostly relevant. Some of that, however, really is down to increased gene flow since then. We got better at moving around the world. We spread our genes.

            Unfortunately, we don't really have good terms for a lot of these end-neolithic populations. Relying on haplogroups is inaccurate, as neither mtDNA or Y-chromosome groups accurate reflect population grouping (and the associated genetic isolation). Similarly, using cultural or linguistic terms (such as indo-european or indo-iranian) is equally inaccurate.

            For example, the closest mtDNA groups are R, I and W-descendant populations, but these don't neatly overlap with Y haplogroups R1a, R1b I1, I2a, I2b, N1c, N1b, and N1c. if you researching both groups however, you start to get a rough idea of the populations in question and the genetic trait clustering in question.

            Despite this, modern humans did experience a period of relative genetic stagnation some time between Y chromosome Adam and Babylon. It created distinct populations each with their own genetic clusterings.

            Most interestingly, while individuals that are part of the population I was discussing as "Aryan" are more likely to have lactose tolerance than non-Aryans, it really can't be used to define the population as the evolution of lactose tolerance was only about 6000 years ago. That's well after the neolithic and into the point where we started roaming around the earth a lot more frequently.

            That said, Lactose tolerance as well as the "resistance to the plague/HIV" genes would help you narrow things a little, as both of those are far more likely to occur amongst the "Aryan" populations. (Though many "Aryans" would not have them, and our gene spread has brought them to other groups."

            Speciation and taxonomy are imprecise.

            Use of the term "Aryan" is thus not an attempt at sparking any hatred, but simply a lack of anything more precise. It is the most accurate term I know of to represent the specific population (and associated cluster of genetic traits) that I was thinking of in my previous comment. Alternative (less angry-making) terminology suggestions are welcomed.

    4. Vociferous

      Re: Define extinction

      > If neanderthal genes make up a sustainable 20% of human DNA, why are they described as extinct?

      Because originally there were two theories how modern humans had arisen: the Out Of Africa theory which held that some 60 000 years ago a group of humans left africa and killed off all the humans already living outside africa, replacing them in a "blitzkrieg" scenario, and the Multiregional theory, which held that the modern races arose by the african emigrants mixing with the archaic human groups which since over 1 million years were already living in Asia and Europe (Neanderthals, Denisovans and other).

      In the 80's, Pääbo published a paper in Nature which "proved" that neanderthals were a different species than H. sapiens, and that they could never interbreed. This settled once and for all that the Out Of Africa theory was the correct one, since sapiens and neanderthalensis were not interfertile.

      Since then, a lot of research has found that they african emigrants and the local humans DID interbreed, but Pääbo's stature is such that the Out of Africa theory remainst dogma.

      Hence, although caucasians are direct descendants of neanderthals, and asians to a significant part Peking man and Denisovans, we still pretend that neanderthals, denisovans etc are extinct.

  6. lglethal Silver badge


    So in order for our species to thrive on a distant planet somewhere else, we need to go there and make the beast with two backs with the locals?

    Where's Captain Kirk when we need him?

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Soooo....

      Are you into space alien porn?!

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Soooo....

        Are you into space alien porn?!

        Who doesn't like a bit of red-hot tentacle action?

        Anyone? Anyone? Just me then...

        1. F111F

          At least two of you...

          TSgt Kwan got some with Laliari...

      2. dssf

        Re: Soooo.... Wickers.... District 9...

        That would be "interspecies prostitution"...

    2. TitterYeNot

      Re: Soooo....

      Oi! You! Put that Tribble down right now! And the other one, I can see it...

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. dssf

    Acid bathing of human cells?

    Wow, talk about "Of Mice and Men" as far as words go:

    Maybe in all those 10s of thousands of intervening years, acidity in the environment also played a role. We were taught in biology class that the right acid/pH balance played a role in our development as a species, IIRC.

    But, this could be a lot more important than how we look. As for skin and hair, I don't think we got our "looks" from the Neanderthal unless there is structure in there, too. After all, skin fairness is in some cases a result of latitude and weather. Bone structure, I would venture to say, impacts a lot, especially facial and cranial, and that renders us looking acceptable or non-acceptable in modern/dating terms. OTOH, I'll defer to the more knowledgable.

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Acid bathing of human cells?

      "After all, skin fairness is in some cases a result of latitude and weather". Says who, I think we have to forget the D vitamin explanation. Perhaps we simply fucked the Neanderthals to death if a Neanderthal woman produced infertile boys. The genome is like machine code, where the truth lies, and is damned difficult to find sometimes. Up vote for finding the IT angle. Poor bastards those Neanderthals, probably used as slaves and what not.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: Acid bathing of human cells?

        Lars, what makes you believe that we (homo sapiens) fucked them (neanderthal)? Maybe they raped us!

        Yes, I'm slightly twisting words for effect.

        1. xperroni

          Re: Acid bathing of human cells?

          Lars, what makes you believe that we (homo sapiens) fucked them (neanderthal)? Maybe they raped us!

          Actually I was thinking much the same thing. From the article:

          The researcher also focused on areas where Neanderthal markers were missing and found a striking lack of the genome in the X chromosome. This suggests that humans underwent hybrid sterility. When two organisms are distantly related, the genes related to fertility, inherited on the X chromosome, can interact poorly with genes elsewhere, rendering males infertile. Modern males who inherited a Neanderthal X chromosome often may have been unable to have children and therefore pass on the same X chromosome.

          Humans – well, all vertebrates really – inherit the X chromosome from the mother and the Y chromosome from the father. So this necessarily means all us part-Neanderthals descend, however distantly, from a female modern human who was shagged by a male Neanderthal. Forcefully or otherwise, it's anyone's guess – I for one am as hairy as it gets (even the midsections of my fingers sport a couple hairs) and I didn't have to force my wife once. Honest.

  9. Adrian Midgley 1


    You might want to be more precise in naming there.

    Hominid, hominid, home sap etc.

  10. Hollerith 1

    Well thanks

    Neanderthal ancestors, I really want to thank you for that diabetes thing. Appreciate that being passed on. Yay.

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Well thanks

      They're overselling their case (a lot). Africans and asians don't have neanderthal ancestry, but they do get diabetes too.

      What they mean is that a particular gene marker for a particular type of diabetes is slightly more common in caucasians, ie those with neanderthal ancestry.

  11. Old Handle

    Yes, you. Staring at the screen.

    How did you know I'm not African?

  12. Fat Bob

    "The boffins also found that some genetic changes that affect the risk for diseases like lupus, diabetes and Crohn's Disease likely originate from Neanderthals."

    It's never Lupus!

  13. ravenviz Silver badge

    "mingled and merged"

    Is that boffin for rumpy pumpy?

  14. itzman
    Paris Hilton

    Men are frm Mars...

    but women are Neanderthals.

    Suddenly it all makes sense..

  15. Vociferous

    You're a neanderthal...

    ...if you're caucasian, that is.

    If you're asian or african, you've likely not got neanderthal ancestry.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Neanderthals never ever...

    ..."diverged from humanity" -- they **are** (part of) humanity.

    Perhaps not of sapienticity, but even that is far from clear.

    1. Vociferous

      Re: The Neanderthals never ever...

      > Perhaps not of sapienticity, but even that is far from clear.

      From a scientific & taxonomic point of view, it is clear: neanderthals (and denisovans, and probably other) were sapiens. The reason paleoanthropologists still balk at this screamingly obvious fact is Pääbo's deeply flawed study on mitochondrial data where he "proved" that neanderthals could not interbreed, and even though the argument and methodology in the article is today known to be plain wrong, his conclusion that neanderthals and cro-magnon were different species, is still unchallenged dogma.

      The whole field is currently a living testimony to the power of Kuhnian paradigms.

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