New genetic data suggests that, at at least two points in history, Homo sapiens were interbreeding with other species, most likely Homo neanderthalensis or heidelbergensis.
This is pretty damn interesting, because it's a reversal on previous research. A couple of years ago, I got a chance to see Svante Pääbo, an evolutionary anthropologist with the Max Planck Institute, and kind of a big deal in the world of ancient hominid genetics, talk about this very topic. He and his team studied bits and pieces of the neanderthal genome and came to the conclusion that hanky panky hadn't happened between that species and ours. And, because it was Svante Pääbo (again, kind of a big deal) everybody trusted his results. So much so, in fact, the the University of New Mexico researchers who did this new study were surprised that their data said differently.
This is a really fun moment in science, when accepted information gets legitimately challenged. And now the ball is back in Pääbo's court. Remember, his previous neanderthal analysis was based on bits and pieces of the genome. Recently, he wrapped up a rough draft sequence of the entire genome, and, as Nature points out, what he finds there will probably be the first test of this new theory. Of course, it's also possible that both groups are right, and it's really H. heidelbergensis who was knocking boots with ancient sapiens. We'll just have to wait and find out.
Nature News: Neanderthals may have interbred with humans
Image courtesy Flickr user erix, via CC
Apple released this lovely new commercial featuring Carl Sagan reading from his magnificent 1994 book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, now available as an audiobook. This surprising partnership spurred Adweek to interview my friend Ann Druyan, Sagan’s wife, collaborator, and creative director of the Voyager Golden Record, about being […]
The Action Lab took a maglev gyroscope and placed it inside a sealed chamber to see what happens to a levitating gyroscope in a vacuum. A lot of people took issue with the experiment’s setup and explanation, but it’s interesting nonetheless. He responded to those concerns: Hi everyone! I see a lot of comments that […]
Shocking footage, taken from a nearby aircraft, shows a jetliner spraying its appalling chemical payload into our skies. Traffic 12 o'clock pic.twitter.com/g5QjlQ5v8z— Airplane Pictures ✈ (@iLove_Aviation) June 19, 2017
As the old saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for 30 minutes every day. Unless you are too busy, in which case you should meditate for an hour.” Since most of us have an endless list of things to do and people to see, carving out quiet time can feel impossible, especially when most […]
The Bragi Dash Truly Wireless Smart Earphones are far more than your run of the mill Bluetooth earbuds. While the earpiece design makes these earbuds ideal for exercise and activity, and passive noise cancelling is conducive to a more serene listening experience, these buds go well beyond just playing music.First of all, they can actually […]