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Modern Humans Bred With Evolutionary Predecessors In Africa

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the how-you-doin dept.

Science 160

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Based on a new analysis of old skulls, it now appears that modern humans may have interbred with some earlier hominid species, suggesting that human evolution took a more complex path than previously thought. The study opines that modern humans lived side by side with the older species. Paleontologists disagree over the meaning of the findings, or whether they have any substantial significance at all."

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160 comments

Time for another 4 letter comic. (5, Funny)

suso (153703) | about 2 years ago | (#37423168)

Reminds me so much of this comic [smbc-comics.com]

Re:Time for another 4 letter comic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423722)

There is no doubt that the modern human trajectory of evolution started in Africa. This article does not make any claims regarding ethnicity but rather the proper phylum for contemporary man.

It seems reasonable that H. Sapiens genetics would be derived from several different archaic Homo species. The question remains is how humanoids during this time could successfully interbreed if they were of different linages.

Re:Time for another 4 letter comic. (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#37423930)

Not to state whether or not it did happen, but let's try to remember here that the species concept is not an insurmountable wall. Some species within the same genus can cross breed and create viable fertile young, some can't. There's no hard fast rule as to how distant is too distant for successful interbreeding (and by that I mean not just viability of the offspring, but fertility of both offspring and all descendants of the offspring).

Now that we're pretty damned sure that H. sapiens and H. neandertalis did in fact interbreed, and we know several hundred thousand years must certainly have divided the Eurasian H. neandertals and African H. sapiens, that tells me that interfertility may stretch a helluva long ways back; somewhere around 600-700kyears ago at least. If that's the case, then I'll wager we could successfully interbreed with H. erectus and maybe even further back.

Re:Time for another 4 letter comic. (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about 2 years ago | (#37424210)

Although some use the inability to produce viable and fertile offspring as the method of determining when real speciation has taken place. What this may show is that H.Sapiens and H. neanderthal are not different species but merely different breeds. As Russian Blue and American Short Hair are very different looking but are both feline domesticus.

Re:Time for another 4 letter comic. (4, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#37424650)

That has not been an adequate species concept for decades. No one defines species based solely on infertility. That two distinct populations can interbreed does not automatically make them the same species, any more, in fact, that distaff members of related populations being unable to interbreed makes them different species. For instance Great Danes and Chihuahas are both members of C. lupis, despite the fact that they cannot interbreed, because intermediaries can. This is a classic example of a ring species.

The species concept is a rather complex one, and doesn't lend itself to concrete definitions. Any general statement you make about what constitutes a species cannot apply to every situation. Of course, we can never know for sure that all of genus Homo is one species or several. We're going largely off of morphological data, which is dangerous, because, again, it can paint a false picture. Some alien taxonomist might look at the skeleton of a great dane and a miniature poodle and assume the two were different species.

But since there is value to classifying extinct hominids, to show trends in morphological and physiological changes, as much as anything it's convenience to group them into different species and even genuses, even though we're only able to measure some of the characteristics, and not get a fuller picture (ie. genetic data). Even the divide between the Australopithecines and genus Homo is somewhat arbitrary, but still useful because of the clearly more human traits found with H. habilis.

Re:Time for another 4 letter comic. (1)

jefe7777 (411081) | about 2 years ago | (#37424930)

For instance Great Danes and Chihuahas are both members of C. lupis, despite the fact that they cannot interbreed

nonsense. either a miniature ladder, or a shoehorn will remedy the situation, depending on which one is the male, and which one is the female...

Yeah whatever (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423186)

Ancient humans got more action than the userbase of Slashdot. Film at 11.

Tectonic Plate Drift (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423244)

Africa? Isn't that were Kentucky is now?

I call NS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423250)

I call NO SHIT! Have you seen some of the people in our society?

A single fossil (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423252)

How do they draw this conclusion from a single fossil? Couldn't it have been a deformed human? There are still humans born with the occasional pre-humanoid traits, like tails.

Re:A single fossil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423320)

pre-humanoid traits

?
If they appear on a human they would be human traits, wouldn't they?

Re:A single fossil (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423356)

No, he means politicians.

Re:A single fossil (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 2 years ago | (#37423398)

no since your common "necko" if she was real would have what would be considered "feline" attributes and a werewolf would have what would be considered "canine" attributes.

certain things are considered simian but not Human attributes (tails and prominent brow ridges are examples)

Re:A single fossil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423446)

...considered by whom?

Re:A single fossil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37424008)

People smarter than you.

Re:A single fossil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423328)

"Based on a new analysis of old skulls"
skullS
Spot the plural.

Re:A single fossil (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423428)

Skull.
Ignore the summary, RTFA.
Skull.

Re:A single fossil (0)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | about 2 years ago | (#37423422)

How do they draw this conclusion from a single fossil? Couldn't it have been a deformed human? There are still humans born with the occasional pre-humanoid traits, like tails.

I was wondering that myself

Re:A single fossil (2)

maxume (22995) | about 2 years ago | (#37423478)

If they interbred and the genes persist in the present day population, all it means is that the definition of human that excluded the 'other' species was wrong (or at least it calls the usefulness of that definition into question).

Anyway, it is a tautology that a species interbred with it's evolutionary predecessors.

Re:A single fossil (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 years ago | (#37424060)

Anyway, it is a tautology that a species interbred with it's evolutionary predecessors.

Ahh, but not that "modern man" did so with prehistoric predecessors. I'm interested in hearing that "modern" applies to anything prior to, oh, 0 BCE.

Re:A single fossil (2)

maxume (22995) | about 2 years ago | (#37424200)

That's likely just parochialism on your part, they lacked our absurd numbers and fantastic machines, but that's pretty much the entire difference.

Re:A single fossil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423912)

They're "experts" , which on average are right about 50% of the time.

Re:A single fossil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37424344)

"How do they draw this conclusion from a single fossil?"

It's called DNA, it's a new thing.

Re:A single fossil (5, Informative)

Bob-taro (996889) | about 2 years ago | (#37423784)

How do they draw this conclusion from a single fossil? Couldn't it have been a deformed human? There are still humans born with the occasional pre-humanoid traits, like tails.

FTA:

But palaeontologists are not all agreed on precisely what the new analysis is telling us - or, indeed, whether it is telling us anything definitive at all.

"I do not think that these findings add anything new to our view," said Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, who was not connected to the study.

Please don't mod me informative just for quoting the original article.

Re:A single fossil (1)

mspohr (589790) | about 2 years ago | (#37424290)

This article is about skull morphology but it follows on some very interesting genetic studies which show that all modern humans (except those from Africa) have Neanderthal genes which where picked up when modern humans moved through Europe about 30,000 years ago. They've been able to sequence Neanderthal genes and find these in modern humans from all continents except Africa.

Interestingly, and probably not surprising since modern Africans did not migrate through Europe, modern Africans don't have any Neanderthal genes and as such could be considered the only "true bloodline" homo sapiens sapiens.

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423302)

At least now we know where the Kardashians came from.

Would have been fascinating to chronicle... (2)

Empiric (675968) | about 2 years ago | (#37423304)

...the thought processes of such cultural collisions.

I imagine something like this, but the interaction would have been very interesting...

When you see your likeness, you are pleased. But when you see your images which came into being before you, and which neither die nor become manifest, how much you will have to bear!

--Darwin, um, yeah... Darwin, to get past the more-reflexive mods

So someone really did bang an ape. (-1)

BLToday (1777712) | about 2 years ago | (#37423306)

And created "bros" in the process.

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423390)

Dude, you are truly a doosh bag of the highest order.

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423456)

NOPE.

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423462)

That's not how you spell douche, douche bag.

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423458)

Is that a nigger joke? They're still your ancestors either way, though.

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423470)

You're an idiot.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bro [urbandictionary.com]

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423600)

Actually, that linkage would suggest I was ignorant. Not knowing the difference between ignorant and idiot might be more akin to idiocy than ignorance, though.

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423736)

ps. not everyone is hip to the jive of the young'uns of the United states of Aaaaaaaaaaahmeeeeeeeeeeeeeericaaaah, biotch!

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (-1, Flamebait)

Paracelcus (151056) | about 2 years ago | (#37423752)

No matter what color you are, your ancestors were black skinned!
A moronic cracker thinks that Raquel Welch really was the female archetype in 1,000,000 BC!

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (1)

BLToday (1777712) | about 2 years ago | (#37424658)

"Bros"=/= black. Bros are the idiots that try to live like the cast of the Jersey Shore.

Re:So someone really did bang an ape. (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | about 2 years ago | (#37423862)

So someone really did bang an ape.

Yeah but with grog goggles (they didn't have beer back then) she looked like uh.....ok so she was a bit hairy.

Correlated with the invention of beer, no doubt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423346)

No surprise there.

so we fucked animals... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423368)

Who's to say we didn't have sex with animals and other 'human-like' apes???

Re:so we fucked animals... (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 2 years ago | (#37424816)

Who's to say we didn't have sex with animals and other 'human-like' apes???

I don't know about you, but that "we" doesn't include me dawg :)

Previous genetic evidence (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 2 years ago | (#37423400)

Similar hypotheses have been suggested based on genetic evidence which suggested that humans and neanderthals interbred. See http://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/news/2010/may/first-genetic-code-of-neanderthal-reveals-inbreeding66724.html [nhm.ac.uk]. In both cases, the work has been done by Chris Stringer who seems to focus a lot on this hypothesis. Stringer is a very respected anthropologist who was responsible for formulating a lot of the now accepted ideas about how homonids spread from Africa in successive waves of migrations.

Re:Previous genetic evidence (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 2 years ago | (#37424864)

Similar hypotheses have been suggested based on genetic evidence which suggested that humans and neanderthals interbred. See http://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/news/2010/may/first-genetic-code-of-neanderthal-reveals-inbreeding66724.html [nhm.ac.uk]. In both cases, the work has been done by Chris Stringer who seems to focus a lot on this hypothesis. Stringer is a very respected anthropologist who was responsible for formulating a lot of the now accepted ideas about how homonids spread from Africa in successive waves of migrations.

In addition to that, we know that the ancestors of the Melanesian population interbred with the Denisovan hominids. [wikipedia.org] To add more interesting stuff to the cauldron, it appears that the Neanderthals not only interbred with H. Sapiens but with the Denisovans as well. [newscientist.com] Stone-age interspecial threesome man!

Is this really any surprise? (3, Insightful)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 2 years ago | (#37423414)

Human males are well known to basically try and fuck anything in sight that has a vagina, a large portion of things that don't, and even some things that aren't even alive.

Something tells me nerdy scientists aren't the best equipped for this field of study.

Re:Is this really any surprise? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423528)

Human females have been known to fuck any vegetable or plant matter shaped like a long cylinder, in-sight. Are Human Females not included in "nerdy scientists"? Why be so sexist as to imply nerdy scientists are only males?

Something tells me that Slashdot isn't the best equipped for taking your engendered bias.

Re:Is this really any surprise? (3, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 2 years ago | (#37424488)

Human females have been known to fuck any vegetable or plant matter shaped like a long cylinder, in-sight.

Yeah, I learned all I know about women from internet porn sites too.

Re:Is this really any surprise? (2)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about 2 years ago | (#37423852)

Some common sense! Just reading the headline thought well hell ya...

I remember reading Neanderthal's and our ancestors lived together with no inbreeding and thought ya right.

Re:Is this really any surprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37424192)

The surprise is that they impregnated members of another species (or vice versa), not that they had sex with them.

That cannot logically be true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423418)

They probably meant to say that modern humans bread with their evolutionary siblings.

Re:That cannot logically be true (1)

digitig (1056110) | about 2 years ago | (#37423448)

Yes, I was wondering about that. On the usual definition of "species" they can't have interbred with a different species. Different subspecies yes, but species, no.

Re:That cannot logically be true (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#37423954)

I don't know why more people aren't pointing that out, and even moreso in the recent DNA studies giving evidence that humans and neanderthals "cross-bred." Personally I think this is largely just wordplay. If they just said, "new findings indicate human ancestors may have been more genetically diverse than previously thought (but of course, almost none of you know what was previously thought in the first place)," then nobody would care. But put it this way, and it people get all excited because it smacks of beastiality.

Re:That cannot logically be true (3, Interesting)

Appolonius of Perge (961983) | about 2 years ago | (#37424108)

The definition of species isn't very good. It's a convenient abstraction, and works in a lot of cases, but it doesn't entirely reflect reality. There are, for example, ring species [wikipedia.org] that break it, and lots of fertile hybrids between species [wikipedia.org], and even hybrids between genera [wikipedia.org], especially in plants. Often, hybrids are not fertile, but sometimes they are. But it's important to remember that fertility isn't the only barrier to inter-species mating; behavioral, temporal and geographic barriers also play a very important part.

Re:That cannot logically be true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423794)

Is that where yeast infections come from?

Impossible! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423434)

I refuse to believe liberals and conservatives can interbreed. If there was a resulting hybrid offspring it would most certainly be sterile. There is a chance that one of the two known species of Homo Sapiens could interbred with the last remaining members of the Homo Centris sub species allowing extremist DNA to slowly migrate between the species. I haven't seen anything in Nature on the subject so I have my doubts.

Re:Impossible! (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | about 2 years ago | (#37423998)

I refuse to believe liberals and conservatives can interbreed. If there was a resulting hybrid offspring it would most certainly be sterile.

Arnold Schwartzenegger and Maria Shriver

Re:Impossible! (1)

hrvatska (790627) | about 2 years ago | (#37424256)

I refuse to believe liberals and conservatives can interbreed. If there was a resulting hybrid offspring it would most certainly be sterile.

Arnold Schwartzenegger and Maria Shriver

It has not yet been determined if their offspring are sterile.

Re:Impossible! (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about 2 years ago | (#37424350)

I refuse to believe liberals and conservatives can interbreed. If there was a resulting hybrid offspring it would most certainly be sterile.

Arnold Schwartzenegger and Maria Shriver

lol. I think the weirdest paring is James Carville and Mary Matalin - political consultants for the opposing parties. Amazing, shocking, and inspiring all at the same time.

Not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423464)

Evolution is a trial and error process on a species-wide scale over the course of millennia.

The idea that evolution is a direct march from simple, primitive species to complex ones, with homo sapiens sitting proudly at the top of the heap, is a misconception that comes from a grade-school understanding of evolution.

The Xon? Pfft (1)

bwnunnally (1744458) | about 2 years ago | (#37423472)

Doesn't this prove that previously believed-to-be-extinct species of humans aren't extinct at all? They're Grandma?

genetic evidence (1)

rish87 (2460742) | about 2 years ago | (#37423578)

Here is a blog post on a related topic http://goo.gl/K3dDG [goo.gl]. We already have genetic proof of interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans (more common in specific asian populations). There are also suggestions that all of this mixing is a lot more complicated than we ever thought and not even subject to single periods of time. Personally I find the fact that we are actually a mix of old divergent species really exciting and our genome is really a big twisted mystery just asking to be unraveled to find out where the hell parts of it came from.

We Knew This (1)

dugn (890551) | about 2 years ago | (#37423668)

Didn't these guys watch the last episode of the updated BSG?

Re:We Knew This (1)

siride (974284) | about 2 years ago | (#37424490)

I'm surprised this was the only comment about BSG. My first thought was "they finally found evidence for cylons!"

NY Country Anthropologist? (2)

joeyspqr (629639) | about 2 years ago | (#37423730)

... did they download copyrighted music to set the mood for their interspecies lovemaking?

Re:NY Country Anthropologist? (1)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | about 2 years ago | (#37423742)

. did they download copyrighted music to set the mood for their interspecies lovemaking?

Yes, but their mp3 players were hopelessly antiquated.

So... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#37423740)

That explains how Cane and Abel had kids. When Adam and Even only had 2 sons.

So other then evolving from Monkeys we are inter-species hybrid of Monkeys. You know I think that is irreverent enough to get the evangelical christian nuts to support some elements of evolution. Vs accepting that we are descendants of a human monkey hybrid.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37424362)

Genesis doesn't say they only had 2 sons. It just says that they had 2. So there could have been more before, in between, or after. So be sure to throw some inbreeding at your Evangelical Christian nuts.

Define species? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423768)

Ummm...maybe I don't remember my biology, but if they can interbreed doesn't it mean by definition they are members of the same species?

Discussion from paper: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423830)

summary: modern africans are highly mixed with ancient african races. (yes, the bred with apes)

Discussion:
Our analysis indicates that Iwo Eleru possesses neurocranial morphology intermediate in shape between archaic hominins (Neanderthals and Homo erectus) and modern humans. This morphology is outside the range of modern human variability in the PCA and CVA analyses, and is most similar to that shown by LPA individuals from Africa and the early anatomically modern specimens from Skhul and Qafzeh. Iwo Eleru is distinct from the recent African samples used here (although the range of recent modern human variation encompasses relatively low and elongated cranial shapes approaching this condition). Past work has suggested that neurocranial shape reflects population history relatively reliably among modern human populations [14], [15]. Although we did not find unambiguous strong affinities between Iwo Eleru and the samples used here, its overall morphological similarities with early modern humans suggest a link to these early populations and possibly a late Middle-early Late Pleistocene chronology. Nonetheless, the archaeological setting, stratigraphy, previous radiocarbon [see 4] and our new U-series dating indicate a much younger, terminal Pleistocene age for this cranium. Such a late chronology for the Iwo Eleru cranium implies that the transition to anatomical modernity in Africa was more complicated than previously thought, with late survival of “archaic” features and possibly deep population substructure in Africa during this time.

Thus our restudy of the Iwo Eleru cranium confirms previously noted archaic cranial shape aspects, and the U-series age estimates on its skeleton support the previously proposed terminal Pleistocene date for this burial. Our findings also support suggestions of deep population substructure in Africa and a complex evolutionary process for the origin of modern humans [16], [17], [7], [18], [19], [20], [21]. Perhaps most importantly, our analysis highlights the dearth of hominin finds from West Africa, and underscores our real lack of knowledge of human evolution in that region, as well as others. As also indicated by restudy of the Ishango (Congo) fossils [22], Later Stone Age fossils from at least two regions of Africa retain significant archaic aspects in their skeletons. We hope that the next stage of this research will extend studies to the Iwo Eleru mandible and postcrania, and to comparative materials such as those from Ishango.

Skeletons in the closet (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about 2 years ago | (#37423870)

This reminds me of back in grade school when we'd have a section on genetic traits. There was always one kid who couldn't possibly have inherited all of his/her traits from both parents. (Eye color, hair color, blood type, etc.)

Yeah and what will they say about us today? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423908)

Humans from recorded history kept companions such as dogs and cats as pets.
This shows clear signs that they both shared beds and food with the animals so they most likely chose them as mates.

Also this giant "M" golden arch unearthed deems that they worshiped ancient Deity such as Ronald McDonald, a clown with face paint. Even more interesting is a giant purple god of consumption, labeled 'grimace'. Statues of this 'God of consumption' are found throughout the world proving that Grimace was worshiped on all hemispheres and major continents thousands of years ago.

better than monkeys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37423922)

I thought it was established that sex with monkeys in Africa was how HIV was introduced in humans. So now it's news that a human would have sex with something better than a monkey?

I'm pretty sure ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37424054)

... that's how AIDS started.

You mean some guy did it with a chimp? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37424280)

Seems like a scientific way of saying. "Zookeeper molesting Chimpanzees!"

definition of species (1)

schlachter (862210) | about 2 years ago | (#37424294)

if the two groups can interbreed and produce viable offspring that are fertile...are they really two different species? I'm sure the definition of a species can have some gray area, but I thought this was one of the defining features of the definition.

Re:definition of species (1)

rish87 (2460742) | about 2 years ago | (#37424450)

in the classical sense yes, but the more we learn about everything science, the more we realize labeling ANYTHING in the universe and placing everything in nice little separate buckets is a totally artificial and unrealistic goal. We keep finding species that are really bizarre and hard to categorize-even using genetics, or astronomical 'bodies' that don't quite fit into the nice little labels we give 'planets' and 'moons' and whatnot. Think about it as more of a "guideline" than an absolute.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37424740)

Must be nice to just make up whatever fits today's "findings". Who needs rigorous proof and facts anyway????

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