Tuesday, February 28, 2012
I have just read an interesting article which summarizes the following paper: Partial genetic turnover in neandertals: continuity in the east and population replacement in the west, by Love Dalén, Ludovic Orlando, Beth Shapiro, Mikael Brandström Durling, Rolf Quam, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, J. Carlos Díez Fernández-Lomana, Eske Willerslev, Juan Luis Arsuaga and Anders Götherström. Molecular Biology and Evolution. Mol Biol Evol (2012). doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss074. First published online: February 23, 2012.
Basically it seems that an analysis of Neanderthal DNA suggests that nearly all of the Neanderthals in western Europe died out about 50,000 years ago (long before modern humans appeared on the European scene), perhaps due to extremely cold weather. Later, the Neanderthals that survived elsewhere, re-entered Europe, peopling it again for about ten thousand years before becoming extinct themselves...
Remarkably little is known about the population-level processes leading up to the extinction of the neandertal. To examine this, we use mtDNA sequences from 13 neandertal individuals, including a novel sequence from northern Spain, to examine neandertal demographic history. Our analyses indicate that recent western European neandertals (<48 kyr) constitute a tightly defined group with low mitochondrial genetic variation in comparison to both eastern and older (>48 kyr) European neandertals. Using control region sequences, Bayesian demographic simulations provide higher support for a model of population fragmentation followed by separate demographic trajectories in subpopulations over a null model of a single stable population. The most parsimonious explanation for these results is that of a population turnover in western Europe during early Marine Isotope Stage 3, predating the arrival of anatomically modern humans in the region.
Neanderthal Cave art
Another recent find were some "seals" discovered in a cave on the southern coast of Spain at Nerja.
These were apparently drawn by Neanderthals 48 ky ago!!. And if so, are older than any modern human rock art and a clear sign of the intellectual capabilities of the Neanderthals.
More on the Nerja drawings here,
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