Are We the Last Neanderthals?

In the presentation ‘Are We the Last Neanderthals’, John Hawks talked about the increasing knowledge we are getting about Neanderthals and how we are acquiring this information. Neanderthals were once thought to be centered in Europe, but new information including new bone discoveries have determined that they extended from Europe east, across Asia. Further information through genotype readings of the bones have shown that Neanderthals were most diverse in Asia, and scientists now believe the population was centered in central/west Asia. New information on their bone shape and thickness has backed up further depictions of the physique of Neanderthals: hunched over and constantly moving. But, the earlier depictions often showed the Neanderthals as large bulky people, where new discoveries through tracking their dietary habits have found they were actually a smaller people with a low body mass index. Scientists have also extended their research of base pairs, and are now up to infoormation on three billion base pairs. These base pairs can tell us about the Neanderthal’s muscles, diseases, and digestion. Certain bones have helped with giving us the genomes of the Neanderthals, especially the tibia bone. But, one flaw of these findings is that we cannot just trust these sequences due to the bones being buried for so many years. Even though this is true, scientists have determined that Neanderthals most likely have red hair due to their lack of the mcl-R gene. Furthermore, scientists have studied teeth to find out what the Neanderthals were eating. To do this, they looked at the Neanderthal’s calculus-the calcium layer on the teeth. Embedded are fragments of food that scientists can now determine with genetics what meat/plant they were eating. To finalize the presentation, the presenter broached the topic of who is most like the Neanderthals. Expectedly, Asians were closest and Europeans second. But he ended with the statement that we only know what genes we share, not which ones were derived from Neanderthals.

I found this presentation very interesting and entertaining. While cracking jokes, the presenter maintained giving extremely educational information on new studies being done and new research on Neanderthals. These new techniques and findings were very exciting. I would have never thought to check within the calcium of the Neanderthals teeth to find embedded food. Furthermore, I found his last statement to be a mind-boggler. I would automatically assume that any genes we shared were derived from Neanderthals. This statement made me realize just how complicated it would be to make a timeline from Neanderthal to human. For example, he brought up that he was type O blood, which is a trait he shares with Neanderthals. But, what if he was compared with someone that was red-headed (or had a lack of the mcl-R gene)? Who would be the most like the Neanderthals, or the closest related? That is what is making a timeline of Neanderthal to human so difficult. This presentation had many points where it correlated with class. He talked about genetics, microscopy, different proteins, and evolution.

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