An Up-to-Date Neanderthal Genome Fits Into the Web of Humanity

There’s more news on the ancient human DNA front: as I report in my new “Matter” column in the New York Times, scientists have now reconstructed the genome of a Neanderthal with exquisite accuracy. Their genome sequence is as good as what you’d get if you had your own genome sequenced with the finest equipment available today. And yet the DNA comes from a fossil that’s approximately 130,000 years old.

You can read more about this remarkable feat–and what it implies–in my column. But there’s something more that I didn’t have room to discuss that I found really intriguing. Here’s the tree of human evolution that scientists have generated from the Neanderthal genome in comparison with other human DNA:



Now zoom out to the tree of all living things*:

Brown, Nature Reviews Genetics
Brown, Nature Reviews Genetics

Evolution is a mixture of flow–the cascade of genes from parents to offspring, and the criss-cross movement between populations and species. It has made us who were are, over just the past 60,000 years and over the past four billion.

[Note: The image at the top of this post comes from the Neanderthal Museum in Germany. I have never been there, but I can only guess that it’s fantastic.]

[*This tree is somewhat out of date. Eukaryotes now look to be just one branch of the Archaea, for example, rather than a third domain. But the criss-crossing remains.]

17 thoughts on “An Up-to-Date Neanderthal Genome Fits Into the Web of Humanity

  1. The individual was from a highly inbred group, yet comparisons show that Neanderthals and humans did at times cross paths and cross breed. Sounds like isolated populations of the same species (perhaps technically considered sub-species) in which small groups were highly nomadic or pioneering.

  2. The resemblance in that photo to a certain news anchor is rather striking.

    Now that I think about it, I rather wish we’d have a Neanderthal news anchor. I might watch more network news.

  3. I think the paper states the bone was found in a layer that is about 50000 years old and not 130000

    [CZ: I asked Svante Paabo, the lead author of the study about the bone’s age. The layer is dated as being older than 50000, but it’s unclear how much older. They’ve used the molecular clock to estimate the age of the fossil from the mutations in the genome. Depending on the mutation rate, the age is older. Paabo said their current estimate is 130,000 years.]

  4. In other words, dates are not made by Carbon dating.

    And of course not by historical record. It is a play between “dating of the rocks in which found” and “dating of mutations” … (a Young Earth Creationist taking note).

  5. It appears that asians and the people in pacific are more closely related to Denisovans than Neanderthals. Cool. Good article

  6. Oh, we are the ones who refuse to accept what we know, are we …?

    There are two criteria by which I consider the Neanderthal as fully human: a) they have made children with people closer to us and which have come down to us, b) their language gene (FOXP2 unless I misremember the exact name) is exactly identical to the human version.

    There was an article on the second aspect hereof on CMI (Creation Ministries International).

    There is exactly no criterium by which they would have lived outside the Biblical Chronology, this contradicting it. If it had been C14, I would have answered that C14 level was still early on in buildup and gave very much lower inition values – not to be confused with the evolutionist theme of “we have checked about fluctuations” – and Carl Zimmer just confirmed that the bones were dated after the layer, meaning it is a question of all the guesswork of palaeocene, miocene, eocene etc. being different times rather than different biotopes at around the same time (basically Flood of Noah, though some perhaps later too).

  7. Author Jonathan Brookes has recently published a novel in which the military attempts to clone Neanderthals to use as soldiers.

    The novel is a fast paced science fiction thriller that explores the possibility of resurrecting and weaponizing an extinct species (Neanderthals). The intriguing storyline shares some fascinating anthropological and biological insights while also contemplating moral questions raised by genetic engineering.

    Imagine a scenario in which some rogue, black-ops faction of the military attempts to clone Neanderthals in order to create a superior soldier. This rogue military group, working with a military contractor, inadvertently unleash a past that should have remained extinct. The novel explores the social and moral issues of such a project, as well as worst case scenarios of a covert military project gone awry.

  8. I can understand the stance scientific “authorities” take by accepting evolution as fact. After all, no one wants to be ostracized from their community for being different.
    It’s kinda like scientist racism. Lol

  9. Radiocarbon dating (or simply carbon dating) is a radiometric dating technique that uses the decay of carbon-14 (14C) to estimate the age of organic materials, such as wood and leather, up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years Before Present.

    Not useful for c130,000 yBP.

    “accepting evolution as fact” Bull***t. 150+ years of EVIDENCE & not a single case to refute it.

  10. There is a difference between facts and faith. Though I respect anyone’s belief and do not mean to diminish or demean that in any way, it is a false analogy to compare the two and define science according to religion ( as in Creationism). We are talking apples and oranges here. Science is based on verifiable facts and evidence & on peer-reviewed studies. It is a field of study. Religion is based on judgments based on values that no one can declare as factual because there is no evidence. Genesis is not a scientific analysis but a metaphorical explanation of how people turned from worshipping nature to worshipping God. Note: I am both deeply spiritual and love science.

  11. Robert Shapiro an evolutionist and Professor of Chemistry at NY University an expert on DNA research wrote the book Origins. Page 33 “In the origin-of -life field, a particular theory or point of view is frequently elevated to the status of a myth. It is then treated as a doctrine to be validated, and not to be challenged.

  12. “If it had been C14, I would have answered that C14 level was still early on in buildup and gave very much lower inition values. . . .” Yes. Yes. By all means be ready with counter-arguments to support your preconceived notions. Ironic evidence that neandertal culture has yet to be extinguished. . . .

  13. We are born into, and socialized in a culture that believes science can and will, given enough time, discover the answers to all the major ills of our existence. But the truth is, there are some things that are, and will remain a mystery. There is a huge difference between a definition and a description. I can define the words God and eternity. But I have no frame of reference to accurately, empirically describe the true nature of those things. I’m 59 years old. But I can not even describe 59 years for I don’t remember the first year or two of my life. So it would be foolish of me to think I could empirically, completely describe eternity. It’s not just that I don’t know, the truth is, I can not know. I am a Christian but I love science, good science, disinterested third party peer reviewed, testable science. But the Christian church has erred by trying to bring the scientific method type thinking into it’s approach to Bible study. It has cause a loss of the wonderment, the sense of mystery of the unknowable, the understanding that we are dust, as the grass of the field that springs up, the wind passes over it and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more.
    That attitude that says, “I have figured it all out, I have all the I’s dotted and all the T’s crossed is segregationist, clannish, engenders hate and fear, us verses them.
    Who cares if God created everything 6,000 years ago or 13.8 billion years ago. What I’m asking is the same thing V’ger asked, “Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?”
    I didn’t get to know my high school sweetheart (My wife) by reading a resume.
    The Apostle Paul understood that concept. He was the apostle of apostles, the pastor of pastors. He knew the Bible of his day probably better than any man alive. But still, near the end of his life, in a Roman jail, awaiting execution, and in spit of all his knowledge of the facts of the law he wrote to the Philippians in 3:10, “That I may know him,…”
    It’s a mystery people. Stop fighting and hating over the tiny details that will mean ZERO in 1 billion years from now.

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