Monday, May 19, 2014

Neanderthal DNA in Humans

Until five years ago, most anthropoligists and archeologists in the United States and Europe believed that the Homo Neanderthalensis, or simply Neanderthal man, was an extinct species of primitive Homo sapiens. Nevertheless, in 2010 a team of anthropologists and geneticists, led by Svante Pääbo, of the Max Planck Institute, in Leipzig, Germany, decoded the DNA of the Neanderthal after two years of hard work. This major scientific breakthrough proved that non-African human beings today share up to 4% of the Neanderthal genes. It was a clear evidence that Homo Neanderthalensis did not become extinct but interbred with modern humans, some time between 86,000 and 45,000 years ago. But the genetic flow is from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon (Homo sapiens sapiens).

This discovery smashed the Neanderthal extinction myth and confirms and validates the interbreeding theory, consolidating at the same time the multiregional hypothesis for human evolution. Only a few anthropoligists had argued for years that there must be a percentage of Neanderthal genes in today's Homo sapiens sapiens, basing their theories only on the anatomical studies of different skulls. No traces of Neanderthal genes have been found in sub-Saharan African population. This genetic flow provided modern non-African humans with a plus that helped them to survive in extreme weather conditions, such as the cold Euroasian winters. It also strengthened their immune system, and would have improved, or thickened, the cerebral fasciculi. This might endowed non-Africans with the capacity to complete tasks (endurance) under adverse circumstances, especially when self-control is required. This is called determination.