Reconstruction of two Neanderthals. Credit: User: UNesert and User: Frank Vincentz, Wikipedia
We are a bit Neanderthals? ? the media headline this in 2010, but now two British researchers contradict this spectacular statement: According to their findings, it is more likely that the similarities between the genetic material of modern humans and the Neanderthals are due to common ancestors, as to mixtures of the two human forms. Anders Eriksson and Andrea Manica from the University of Cambridge report in the respected science journal PNAS. The topic evolves now obviously to the controversy: The originator of the crossing theory does not convince the current study. In 2010, the researchers led by Svante Pääbo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig succeeded in reconstructing the Neanderthal genome. The following analyzes showed that most modern humans seem to carry 1 to 4 percent of archaic genome. Only a few populations in Africa do not have the Neanderthal genes. This plausibly fit into the conceptions of prehistory: After leaving his home continent Africa, modern man eventually met the Neanderthal man and fathered common offspring, who then conquered the rest of the world. But from the beginning there was a problem with this explanatory model, which Svante Pääbo and his colleagues were well aware of: The putative Neanderthal genes could also be interpreted differently? as an old African heritage.

But no fruitful Techtelmechtel?

The current results of Eriksson and Manica are based on computer models suggesting that the genetic similarities are due to the development of both human forms from a geographically defined population. The early humans, who developed into Neanderthals in Europe and Asia, could have emigrated from a population in northern Africa. Then, on the black continent, the modern human developed, parallel to the Neanderthal in Europe. In northern Africa, genetically speaking, this new human form was still closer to the Neanderthal than to the rest of the continent. From the north, 60, 000 to 70, 000 years ago, modern people set out to settle the world. According to Eriksson and Manica, they shared their common heritage with the Neanderthals.

"We can not prove that there have never been any hybridizations, but all the study results so far do not show that it had to be that way, " says Andrea Manica. However, that could change soon, say Svante Pääbo and David Reich of Harvard University opposite the science magazine? New Scientist ?. New investigations into the traces in the genetic material therefore indicate a cross again 47, 000 to 65, 000 years ago. The corresponding study results should be published soon. It would therefore be premature to already write off the crossing theory. display

Anders Eriksson and Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge: PNAS, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1200567109 © Martin Vieweg


Recommended Editor'S Choice