After reading the article that Razib linked up earlier this week and also Tim’s introduction to this specific topic, I had a feeling we’d hear more on the Neandertal interbreeding debate. So I’m not completely surprised to read that Erik Trinkaus is back at it at it again, suggesting that Neandertals became absorbed into Homo sapiens.
He and several other colleagues just published in the August issue of Current Anthropology, this paper, “The Human Cranium from the Pesceditera Cioclovina Uscat, Romania.” I have the PDF if anyone wants it.
They argue that they see mosaicism in the remains of a Homo sapiens skull. There is a,
“groove at the base of the back of the skull, just above the neck muscle, that is ubiquitous in Neandertal specimens but has never been seen in the remains of a modern human.”
“the skull supports interpretations of other remains found in France, Romania, and the Czech Republic that also have “archaic” or unusual features suggesting interbreeding.”
I don’t know what to think of all of this. Trinkaus has been at this for sometime, last year he published on this hypothesis of his right about the time the sequence data from the Neandertal genome project started to come out. I reviewed the paper, in my post, An introduction to and anatomical evidence supporting Neandertal introgression (Part 1). Personally, even though the genetic evidence is overwhelming, I can’t rule out the theory of human-Neandertal interbreeding. It sure coulda been a possibility.
But what the nuclear and mitochondrial evidence shows us is that hybridization didn’t happen. And this fossil nor the Pestera Muierii crania don’t do a good enough job convincing me… just as probable as it is that Neandertal features developed due to interbreeding is the possibility that Neadertal features in H. sapiens came about due to genetic drift and/or variation.
More publications that may interest you:
- Andrei Soficaru, Adrian Dobos, and Erik Trinkaus. 2006. Early modern humans from the Pestera Muierii, Baia de Fier, Romania. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 103:17196-17201.
- Patrick D. Evans, Nitzan Mekel-Bobrov, Eric J. Vallender, Richard R. Hudson, and Bruce T. Lahn. 2006. Evidence that the adaptive allele of the brain size gene microcephalin introgressed into Homo sapiens from an archaic Homo lineage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Early Edition, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 10.1073/pnas.0606966103 (open access).