After extracting ancient DNA from the 40,000-year-old bones of Neanderthals, scientists have obtained a draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome, yielding important new insights into the evolution of modern humans.As the accompanying/linked illustration/article suggests, neanderthalers were NOT the only sub-species with whom the rapacious 'sapiens' interbred.
Among the findings, published in the May 7 (2010) issue of Science, is evidence that shortly after early modern humans migrated out of Africa, some of them interbred with Neanderthals, leaving bits of Neanderthal DNA sequences scattered through the genomes of present-day non-Africans.
"We can now say that, in all probability, there was gene flow from Neanderthals to modern humans," said the paper's first author, Richard E. (Ed) Green of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Green, now an assistant professor of biomolecular engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz, began working on the Neanderthal genome as a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Svante Pääbo, director of the institute's genetics department, leads the Neanderthal Genome Project, which involves an international consortium of researchers. David Reich, a population geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, also played a leading role in the new study and the ongoing investigation of the Neanderthal genome.
"The Neanderthal genome sequence allows us to begin to define all those features in our genome where we differ from all other organisms on the planet, including our closest evolutionary relative, the Neanderthals," Pääbo said.
The researchers identified a catalog of genetic features unique to modern humans by comparing the Neanderthal, human, and chimpanzee genomes. Genes involved in cognitive development, skull structure, energy metabolism, and skin morphology and physiology are among those highlighted in the study as likely to have undergone important changes in recent human evolution.
"With this paper, we are just scratching the surface," Green said. "The Neanderthal genome is a goldmine of information about recent human evolution, and it will be put to use for years to come."
Indeed, since reading Paul Shepard's foundational books and essays on human ecology, and other influences, as well, I have come to the conclusion (which Shephard never asserted, that I know of) that we 'sapiens' (we could abbreviate it to "saps"), we saps have basically only two, pretty much unnuanced approaches to other animal life forms--in no particular order, we fuck them and/or we kill and eat them.
BTW: While on the subject of interspecies congress, I want to recommend the novel by John Gardner, "Grendel." It is a retelling of the Beowulf saga from the "monster's" point of view, in which there are hints that the saga is an epic recording the final struggle between "sapiens" and "neanderthaler" cultures, not too different from the struggles of Greece against Troy, really. It's a GREAT book...disturbing and unsettling. It's in the curriculum of schools in some, generally more enlightened locales, where somehow it survives the ascription of 'satanism.' It has also been banned in many places, and annually makes it onto the ALA's list of demonized and forbidden texts, where it is joined by Vonnegut's masterpiece, Slaughterhouse 5, and a host of other classic and classical texts..