March 18, 2014
THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS SPECIES:Most of us are part Neanderthal (Steven Milthen, 3/19/14, NY Review of Books)
By finding the lost genome, the Swedish biologist Svante Pääbo has discovered that we are all part Neanderthal--except those with an entirely African heritage. So I now feel like shaving my head to celebrate the interspecies engagement of 50,000 years ago, whether or not it is the ultimate cause for the oddity of my skull and my occasional acts of stupidity.
Archaeologists and physical anthropologists have long debated the evolutionary relationship between modern humans and Neanderthals, relying on the similarities and differences between their designs of stone artifacts and the shapes of their bones, with little real understanding of how these might have arisen. Interminable academic arguments have been swept away by the revolution in studies of ancient DNA, led by Pääbo (now at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig) and brilliantly recounted in his new book, Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes.
Pääbo has provided us with a fabulous account of three decades of research into ancient DNA, culminating in 2010 with the publication of the Neanderthal genome.
Posted by Orrin Judd at March 18, 2014 2:22 PM