Interbreeding of Neanderthals & Modern humans

Ken Kinman kinman2 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Oct 20 22:51:27 CDT 2004


Dear All,
     Thanks to Denis Brothers for the link to that recent paper.  It is a very interesting paper (which I am still trying to fully digest), but I do share some of Robin Leech's skepticism about parasites.

     In particular, I can find very little information about another supposed species of Pediculus, namely P. mjobergi (and its various synonyms) which were described from New World monkey hosts (such as Ateles).  It is sometimes referred to subgenus Parapediculus.  If these lice are indeed members of Family Pediculidae, then perhaps the difficulty of jumping a host species barrier (or even a Family barrier) isn't as difficult as is usually thought.

     As for Thomas Lammers' observations, I can certainly envision a sort of circle of subspecies through time (even though it can't form a "true" ring or circle the way it can occur geographically).  It does fit the view of just how fuzzy "species" boundaries would be if we had absolutely complete information (paraphyly would be rampant and drive various strict cladists towards denial, desperation or even near insanity).  The evolution of life actually consists of far more continuities than discontinuities.  However, I still lean toward regarding Homo erectus as a separate species from Homo sapiens (the latter including H. sapiens neanderthalensis).  I just think the boundary between neanderthals and modern humans is a whole lot fuzzier than between erectus and neanderthals, and such gaps are what make biological classifications possible (even populations are very fuzzy when you consider the time dimension).  And I dont think we have the same kind of evidence for erectus-modern hybrids that we do for neanderthal-modern hybrids.  Besides the "Portugal" specimen that Brian referred to, this morning I found reference to a more recent discovery of a possible hybrid from Romania.  See the following link for that paper:

  http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/100/20/11231

            ----Cheers,
                       Ken Kinman
P.S.  I think I would be more comfortable with the parasite information if one paper could show that other parasite evidence was fully congruent with the evidence from lice.  The more congruency the better.  But I would also add that the molecular data (from mitochondrial DNA data), including the two 24,000-year-old moderns from a cave in Italy, is not at all convincing to me.  The sample is far too small and not geographically far enough to the east.  The morphological data (although limited) is far more convincing to me that Neanderthal-Modern hybridization did occur (even if very little of that genetic legacy survived in present populations).  The molecular biologists are way behind on this one no matter how much they may rant and rave at the morphologists.




More information about the Taxacom mailing list