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Re: Dinosaur TV Week Neanderthals (not dinosaurs)
Rob Myerson wrote:
"... I understand that there is still some debate about the proper scientific
name for these guys. Are they _Homo sapiens neanderthal_, or are they _Homo
No, no matter what you choose to believe, they are none of the above. This
isn't about dinosaurs, so I'll be brief, and I suggest that we take this off
list or on another list pronto.
"Neanderthal" (with a silent "h") or "Neandertal" (as some now spell it) simply
means "Neander valley" in German. You may call them _Homo sapiens
neanderthalensis_ (neanderthalensis = "from Neander valley") or _Homo
neanderthalensis_, depending on your view regarding the controversial phylogeny
of "us" and "them."
Morphological differences have recently been abetted by DNA analysis to suggest
that we are separate species. Jerold M. Lowenstein's article, "The Other
People: First Neandertal Tells All," reports on the results of DNA tests on
modern day human bones and the original Neandertal specimen in the Summer 1999
Human Origins special issue of _California Wild_, a publication
produced by the California Academy of Sciences. Svante Paabo and his team at
the University of Munich extracted mitochondrial DNA from Neandertal arm bone,
which was then subjected to polymerase chain reaction and bacterial cloning
techniques and sequencing to produce a 378-base-pair sequence for comparison
with the DNA of a thousand modern people from around the world.
Mark Stoneking of Pennsylvania State University ran an independent study of DNA
from the same specimen. Both laboratories produced consistent results: the
Neandertal sequence differed from modern human DNA by an average of 27 places
in the 378-base-pair sequence, whereas modern human DNA varied from one another
in only eight places. Furthermore, the (German) Neandertal
DNA was no more similar to the DNA of modern Europeans than to the DNA of any
other geographical group. This data, which is interpreted to support the
hypothesis that Neandertals are separate species from _Homo sapiens_, was
probably reported in a primary scientific journal, but I cannot cite a
reference for you at this time.
On the other side of the coin, the 25,000-year-old red-ochre-stained incomplete
skeleton of a ("four-year-old," if you'll pardon the paradox) child from
Portugal's Lapedo Valley appears to show features of modern humans and
Neandertals combined, and it should be pointed out that this specimen is
apparently younger than any known Neandertal specimen. The combination of
relatively short, robust limbs, and incisors which line up with a sheer
vertical mandible in sagittal view (both consistent with Neandertal anatomy);
plus small incisors and a pointy chin (consistent with Cro-Magnon anatomy)
presents the possibility that this boy represents a hybrid of both types. A
tiny perforated seashell, covered with red ochre, was also found with
the skeleton. The excavation and study were led out by Joao Zilhao, director
of the Portuguese Institute of Archaeology, following on the initial discovery
of the skeleton by Joao Mauricio and Pedro Souto. You can see some of the
bones in the article, "Learning to Love Neanderthals," by Robert Kunzig, in the
August 1999 issue of _Discover_ magazine.
That taps out my information on the topic.
Unresolved controversy in archaeology? You bet. If you want the answers, try
to find the peer reviewed papers, or just wait until we have a complete fossil
record! ;>) Now back to dinosaurs...
-- Ralph W. Miller III firstname.lastname@example.org