Neandertals Are Us

When you’re a human evolution nerd like I am, you need to be discriminating about the source of your information.  It’s sometimes eye-rolling how big media hears about some kind of research or fossil discovery & immediately morphs it into a story about sex or food.  Well, we are human, & we do love food (it’s one of my blog categories, after all), we do love stories, & we do love sex (..although that priority order may vary depending on one’s gender, age, love of fiction novels, chef-ing proclivities, etc.).

Just so you know, I always try to take a look at the source research when I tell you something or use a link in my posts.  I don’t always read entire technical papers, but I do try to ferret out the science from the media hype.  That’s why I’ve done a test to find out

hypothetical Denisovan great great great..etc grandma

if I really do have Neandertal genes, as reported recently for many of us with European ancestry.

I know you’ll be thrilled (& not surprised) to know that I do.  & so, probably, do most of you, unless your ancestry is exclusively from Africa, & even then there might be a little Neandertal or Denisovan mixed in if your ancestors left Africa then returned after a little hanky panky with the relatives.

The test I did with the National Geographic Genographic program informed me that 1.8% of my mtDNA (which means from my mother’s side) is Neandertal, and even more, 2.8%, is Denisovan.  I hadn’t even heard much of these latter ancestors until the past year or so: these close relatives of Neandertals are thought to have migrated out of Africa around the same time as their brethren Neandertal folk, around 300,000 years ago, & to have lived in central Asia.  That Denisovan percentage of my mtDNA is probably related to the 16% of my heritage that’s ‘Southwest Asian’, the rest being Northern European (46%) & Mediterranean (35%).

In case you don’t follow the exciting but admittedly sometimes obscure twists & turns of human evolution research & discovery: the current theory about our Neandertal cousins – advanced hominids who survived a major ice age in parts of (what is now known as) Europe – is that they did NOT become extinct because we, ‘human’ primates, killed them off with our superior brain power, sharper hunting spears, nascent language abilities, or murderous ways when we migrated out of Africa about 80-60,000 years ago.  Instead, we now know that they interbred with us.  Yes that’s right, we & Neandertals were enough of the same species 60-40,000 years ago that we together became one or more of many varieties of the human primate species we are today.

What I find deeply satisfying about all of this is that we’re living in a time when our understanding of evolution, & human evolution specifically (because we do love stories about ourselves), changes with nearly each new hominid fossil &/or DNA analysis tool.  I enjoy my self-proclaimed job of helping you, dear friends near & far (known & unknown, & who are busy with other worthy endeavors), keep up with the latest human primate genealogy news.

And, I also absolutely love knowing that these cells in my body can be linked with people in Africa & Asia & Papua New Guinea & Neandertals & Denisovans & many of the rest of our primate ancestors.  Thank you, science, & remember, when you think about human evolution, visualize spaghetti.

Enjoy the Summer Solstice tomorrow, & don’t forget about the big moon this Sunday!

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11 Responses to Neandertals Are Us

  1. Donna Maurillo says:

    I am going to test myself at the site, but I already know that it’s going to be a mix because (ta da!) I’m 100% southern Italian. Even the ancestors that (I suspect) came to Italy from Spain… well, Spain is still Mediterranean, and there are plenty of Moors who came up from Africa. So again, more African roots. But then… how’d I get these blue eyes? Maybe from the Huns that invaded the Roman Empire in the fifth century. Veddy interestink. Actually, I sent away for the DNA testing kit on Ancestry.com, so within a few weeks, I’ll have my genome mapped and will find out where my spaghetti threads its way. Cool!

  2. Donna Maurillo says:

    OK… I checked the site, and the kit is $200. The one on Ancestry.com is $99. So I’ll wait for those results.

  3. archaeocj says:

    The National Geographic test is ‘deep ancestry’– shows migration out of Africa 10s of 1000s of years ago & where it splits off. The Ancestry test is more recent (I think the last 2000 years). I had my Mom tested also: no surprises: her parents were Scottish, so she checks out at 99% British Isles. (Tho a bit surprising we didn’t have Scandinavian (presumably Viking)– perhaps that 1%.) I came out 69% British Isles, which was from my Mom, as my Dad’s parents were born in Italy. So, I thought 1/2 Italian by contribution (I know my G Grandparents were born there too): wrong: not even Southern European! Turns out I’m 10% Persian/Turkish/Caucasus, 8% Central European, 6% Eastern European, & 7% Uncertain. So a lot of interesting surprises. I do recommend taking both tests.

    • liveoaklinda says:

      no neanderthal?? i think as these dna tests become more refined over time, & as more people are able to do them, we will face more surprises. there are those (even scientists) who resist the lesson of science’s surprises, but over time they usually come around. hard to keep those science textbooks up to date though!

  4. Jean Brocklebank says:

    I used http://www.23andme.com for my DNA test. $99 also. The reason I used it was a recommendation from Bryan Sykes (Oxford U. researcher). I had read two of his books (from the Live Oak Library). All results are on a password protected online site.

    My results were 99.8% northern European. That was further broken down to the various percentages of Scandinavian, British, Irish, Finnish, etc. And, ta da — 2.8% Neanderthal. Having been in the caves at Lascaux in the early 1970s and felt the most amazing tug at things primitive, I, too, find this deeply satisfying as well as simply fascinating!

    With any of these tests, one can get one’s haplogroup and that will show where ancestors were between 25,000 and 45,000 thousand years ago.

    • Jean Brocklebank says:

      DNA testing laid to rest a family ancestry myth of my husband. The story was that his gg grandmother was adopted and part, or all, Cherokee. As Linda probably knows from her research, the basic DNA markers are European, African and Asian. If one has any native american ancestry (and DNA), then in the chromosomal report, one will have Asian DNA, at least some small percentage of it. My husband was anxious to see if he had any. No, he did not. None. Zip. Coincidentally, at a family reunion in May, his aunt presented the family with her new research documents that proved his gg grandmother was not adopted at all. Lifelong learning is so cool.

  5. Scott Sewell says:

    Reblogged this on Life On Mundane Lane and commented:
    more Neanderthals!

  6. Pingback: Carrying Water With Neandertals | the everyday primate

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