Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Last Geekfighter

Continuing the stream of consciousness topic choices, some sciency stuff. This one about the on-again-off-again romance of early modern humans and Neanderthals, which, latest information says, never happened.
Did the first modern humans in Europe share a bed with nearby Neanderthals? Almost certainly not, according to a new analysis of 28,000 year old Cro-Magnon DNA.

The Cro-Magnons were the first modern Homo sapiens in Europe, living there between 45,000 and 10,000 years ago. Their DNA sequences match those of today's Europeans, says Guido Barbujani, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Ferrera, Italy, suggesting that "Neanderthal hybridisation" did not occur.

His team published similar findings in 2003, but that study left open the possibility that the Cro-Magnon DNA had been contaminated by the researchers' own genes.

Now, Barbujani's team has sequenced a section of DNA from everyone who handled the sample and found no trace of contamination. ...

Tom Gilbert, an expert on ancient DNA at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, says the new tests convinced him of the Cro-Magnon DNA authenticity. "I was one of the guys who criticised it heavily the first time," he says.
In addition to the the DNA evidence, there is the fact that no "hybrid" skeletons have been found in Europe where the two species coexisted: All are either Cro-Magnon or Neanderthal. Although it remains hypothetically possible, it is increasingly doubtful that early modern humans and Neanderthals interbred.

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