Home » Human evolution » Examining claims for Neanderthal ancestry in humans

Examining claims for Neanderthal ancestry in humans

In “Q&A: Who is H. sapiens really, and how do we know?” (BMC Biology 2011, 9:20doi:10.1186/1741-7007-9-20), Mason Liang and Rasmus Neilsen explain reasons for thinking that humans and Neanderthals interbred:

Is it true that modern humans have Neanderthals and other archaic species in their direct ancestry? 

According to two recently published papers by Green et al. and Reich et al., the answer to this question is yes. Human genomes are in part composed of DNA from other archaic hominin species that traditionally have not been counted among our ancestors, although the proportion of archaic DNA in the genome depends on your ethnicity. On the basis of analyses of ancient DNA, Green et al. report that, on average, 1 to 5% of the genomes of non-African individuals are descended from a Neanderthal, and Reich et al. report that 4 to 6% of the genomes of Melanesians are derived from a newly discovered archaic hominin population dubbed the Denisovans. Denisovans and Neanderthals are the only archaic species investigated so far, but future investigations may reveal contributions of DNA from other species, perhaps even from species that have never been characterized well morphologically.

Lots of useful information here, clearly written.

Bornagain was wondering about this. If he is here, he might like to comment.

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4 Responses to Examining claims for Neanderthal ancestry in humans

  1. Ms. O’Leary, I find this one piece of evidence for ‘genetic mixing’ particularly problematic.,,, For a little background on ‘human evolution’ to show what I mean, the fossil record shows profound discontinuity at, both, before apes and after apes,,,

    “Fossil evidence of human evolutionary history is fragmentary and open to various interpretations. Fossil evidence of chimpanzee evolution is absent altogether”. Evolutionist Henry Gee, Nature 2001
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....131a0.html

    New study suggests big bang theory of human evolution – U of M Press Release
    Excerpt: “The earliest H. sapiens remains differ significantly from australopithecines in both size and anatomical details. Insofar as we can tell, these changes were sudden and not gradual.”
    University of Michigan anthropologist Milford Wolpoff
    http://www.ns.umich.edu/Releas.....1000b.html

    The changing face of genus Homo – Wood; Collard
    Excerpt: the current criteria for identifying species of Homo are difficult, if not impossible, to operate using paleoanthropological evidence. We discuss alternative, verifiable, criteria, and show that when these new criteria are applied to Homo, two species, Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis, fail to meet them.
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.....0/abstract

    Evolution of the Genus Homo – Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences – Tattersall, Schwartz, May 2009
    Excerpt: “Definition of the genus Homo is almost as fraught as the definition of Homo sapiens. We look at the evidence for “early Homo,” finding little morphological basis for extending our genus to any of the 2.5–1.6-myr-old fossil forms assigned to “early Homo” or Homo habilis/rudolfensis.”
    http://arjournals.annualreview.....208.100202

    etc.. etc..

    And Ms. O’Leary, as badly as the evolutionary bias is now seen to be for the fossils of the hypothesized ‘human evolution’, the bias I have run against for the hypothesized ‘genetic evidence’ is far worse than it has been for the fossils of ‘human evolution’;

    ‘while the case for common ancestry — on the face of it — looks mightily strong, closer inspection reveals that the arguments don’t, in fact, stand up under more rigorous scrutiny. In the vast majority of instances, the corroborative data is very carefully cherry picked from the pertinent data set, and the non-congruent evidence is discarded or ignored.’ JonathanM

    DNA Comparisons between Humans and Chimps – Fazale Rana
    Excerpt: It is interesting that when evolutionary biologists discuss genetic comparisons between human and chimpanzee genomes, the fact that, again, as much as 25 percent of the two genomes won’t align receives no mention. Instead, the focus is only on the portions of the genome that display a high-degree of similarity. This distorted emphasis makes the case for the evolutionary connection between humans and chimps seem more compelling than it may actually be.
    http://www.reasons.org/dna-com.....del-part-2

    A simple statistical test for the alleged “99% genetic identity” between humans and chimps – September 2010
    Excerpt: The results obtained are statistically valid. The same test was previously run on a sampling of 1,000 random 30-base patterns and the percentages obtained were almost identical with those obtained in the final test, with 10,000 random 30-base patterns. When human and chimp genomes are compared, the X chromosome is the one showing the highest degree of 30BPM similarity (72.37%), while the Y chromosome shows the lowest degree of 30BPM similarity (30.29%). On average the overall 30BPM similarity, when all chromosomes are taken into consideration, is approximately 62%.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....nd-chimps/

    Do Human and Chimpanzee DNA Indicate an Evolutionary Relationship?
    Excerpt: the authors found that only 48.6% of the whole human genome matched chimpanzee nucleotide sequences. [Only 4.8% of the human Y chromosome could be matched to chimpanzee sequences.]
    http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2070

    ———————

    Evolution is the only “science,” that honestly claims that the frog turned into the prince. Because it happened slowly doesn’t make it more scientific and less of a fairy tale. I don’t like to call evolution a fairy tale, because I believe there is a lot of truth in fairy tales, and I wouldn’t like to insult the respectable art. – Clive H.

  2. I’ve seen pretty strong evidence that Barry Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein and Barney Frank are not merely descendants of Neanderthals, but in fact, are Neanderthals

  3. continued;

    Yet Ms. O’Leary, despite the profound discontinuity we see for the apes to man conjecture, at both the fossil level and genetic level, we have these enigmatic Neanderthal fossils that are fairly distinct from humans and have a much deeper appearance in the fossil record, going back a 1/2 million years if you consider neanderthals to be a subspecies of the 7 ft. giants Homo heidelbergensis, yet they are so similar to us as to warrant their ‘lumping together’ with humans by many YEC’s, in their debates with evolutionists. The confusion was only heightened by the observation that humans are profoundly different in cognitive abilities,,,

    Evolution of the Genus Homo – Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences – Tattersall, Schwartz, May 2009
    Excerpt: “although Homo neanderthalensis had a large brain, it left no unequivocal evidence of the symbolic consciousness that makes our species unique.” — “Unusual though Homo sapiens may be morphologically, it is undoubtedly our remarkable cognitive qualities that most strikingly demarcate us from all other extant species. They are certainly what give us our strong subjective sense of being qualitatively different. And they are all ultimately traceable to our symbolic capacity. Human beings alone, it seems, mentally dissect the world into a multitude of discrete symbols, and combine and recombine those symbols in their minds to produce hypotheses of alternative possibilities. When exactly Homo sapiens acquired this unusual ability is the subject of debate.”
    http://www.annualreviews.org/d.....208.100202

    Moreover Ms. O’Leary this ‘genetic mixing’ evidence, which has been collected from very sparse evidence,,,

    to note just how sparse this evidence is:

    Q&A: Who is H. sapiens really, and how do we know?
    Excerpt: The main problem in dealing with ancient DNA is the dearth of genetic material. The Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes could not be sequenced to a higher coverage not because of a lack of money or time, but because of a lack of DNA extract; the three bones from Vindija Cave and the one from Denisova Cave have been completely hollowed out to produce the genomes reported.
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/20

    ,,, has flown in the face of many pieces of much more solid mtDNA evidence that had been collected from multiple points over long periods of time which supported the ‘distinctness’ of neanderthals from humans;

    NEANDERTHAL: NO RELATION By Sean Henahan, Access Excellence
    Excerpt: “These results indicate that Neanderthals did not contribute mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to modern humans,” says Dr. Mark Stoneking, associate professor of anthropology at Penn State. “Neanderthals are not our ancestors.”—-”While the two species may have lived at the same time, Neanderthals did not contribute genetic material to modern humans,”
    http://www.accessexcellence.or.....der797.php

    The following is a fairly comprehensive analysis of many different studies of genetic evidence which separate us from Neanderthals:

    Descent of Mankind Theory: Disproved by Molecular Biology – Richard Deem PhD.
    Excerpt: Therefore, the most accurate date for the origin of modern humans indicate that the last common ancestor to modern humans must have existed less than 50,000 years ago.,,, The final blow to the idea that humans and Neanderthals interbred was found in a genetic analysis of their chromosomal DNA, published in 2006-2007. These results showed that none of the typical SNPs found in modern humans was present in Neanderthal Y-chromosome DNA.
    http://www.godandscience.org/e......html#note

    Yet here we have this ‘very sparse’ ‘genetic mixing’ evidence flying in the face of all that. In fact this ‘feeble’ evidence caused one paleontologist to comment;

    Signs of Neanderthals Mating With Humans – May 2010
    Excerpt: “But the new analysis, which is based solely on genetics and statistical calculations, is more difficult to match with the archaeological record. There is much less archaeological evidence for an overlap between modern humans and Neanderthals at this time and place.,, Geneticists have been making increasingly valuable contributions to human prehistory, but their work depends heavily on complex mathematical statistics that make their arguments hard to follow. And the statistical insights, however informative, do not have the solidity of an archaeological fact.” They are basically saying, ‘Here are our data, you have to accept it.’ But the little part I can judge seems to me to be problematic, so I have to worry about the rest,” he said.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05.....rthal.html

    Thus when the authors of the report stated this:

    Q&A: Who is H. sapiens really, and how do we know? – March 2011
    Excerpt: If the error structures of the archaic DNA and one of the modern human DNA samples are similar to each other for one of many reasons, the ABBA-BABA test could report admixture when it did not in fact occur. Even a very small proportion of shared errors could cause a strong effect on the ABBA-BABA statistic. For example, small effects that we typically tend to ignore, such as shared contamination of reagents between the samples, could cause artifactual evidence of admixture.
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/20

    ,, I immediately picked up on it for I knew of their sparse sample size they had to work with, plus I knew of the much more solid evidence that they were going up against. There are a few more problems I had with the ‘genetic mixing’ evidence that just didn’t pan out, but basically it boils down to, until they can repeatedly establish this line of evidence from different points and times in the fossil record, it is on very shaky ground and should not be trusted!

  4. Kornbelt at 2, please, … If you could prove this, it would mean that the ‘thals are not extinct.

    Now, there’s a story that would lead without bleeding …

    bornagain at 1 and 3, Thanks for the informative comments!

    I liked the site because the authors give a clear explanation of why they think as they do. I am glad that the question is open in principle, a rare thing these days.

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