Humans and Neanderthals: An introduction

Confused about what we do and don't know about the relationship between humans and Neanderthals? This video by Lynn Fellman will get you up-to-date on the basics—including some of the questions that haven't been answered yet. It doesn't cover everything, but it is a nice primer on recent research and how that research was done.

EDIT: Bad news: Autoplay continues to be the devil. The good news: If you go to Lynn Fellman's website to view the video there, it doesn't autoplay. So follow the link and enjoy.

Image: Neanderthal Silhouette, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from erix's photostream


  1. Being that to my knowledge I’m all non-African, unless I’m some strange sort of albinish foundling,  I’m psyched that I’m no doubt in small part descended from Neanderthals. Wicked awesome.

      1. Including the Neanderthals. Which I like that this video points out. That’s part of why I’d love to see more of the Neanderthal genome sequenced for both sexes. I would not be surprised if it turns out that Africans actually do share some mutations with Neanderthals. It’s not like that species was born somewhere else. 

        1. how would that work though. Neanderthals leave Africa at time T with small gene space compared to africans. Both groups continue to mutate, Differently. No shared mutations if no interbreeding. At time  T+1 future non-Africans leave Africa with small genespace. 

          They interbreed with neanderthals independent of Africans. Africans continue to mutate in their big genespace. Small genespace nonafricans and small genespace neanderthals continue to mutate. Eventually nonafricans diversify into whites, Chinese, american natives, Australasian, etc. And Africans mutate separately. So they’ve been diverging from the point at which nonafricans left for a long while. Nonafricans with a smaller genespace would have less variability overall than africans as a whole. 

          Isn’t that reasonable reading of the data?

  2. So, I know the autoplay is an issue, but now there’s no link to the video :/

    Never mind, there it is. *clicky*

    1. Please tell me I am not alone in my shame at having spent several moments contemplating the neaderthal’s “penis” in that picture and its larger meaning to our species….

      1. I don’t think you are alone, but more seem interested in the serious genome stuff, which I couldn’t fully grasp. The permutations of the video were too complex for me, plus I was distracted by that whole “neandertal” pronunciation and went off on a search of my own to try to figure out where it comes from. At which I failed.

  3. Truth is science is really taking a hard look at our Neanderthal cousins. And most agree they most likely were much gentler and at least as intelligent if not more , with more artistic  sensibilities. So to the morons thinking that having Neanderthal DNA has made people less than human or more violent then those with out Neanderthal DNA  the truth is just the opposite.
     We can in fact count our blessings on having this diversity in our DNA

  4. What I love is the irony that white supremacists want and boast of  a “pure race”, when only those who stayed in Africa are the ones with out Neanderthal sprinkled into the gene pool.

    1. I know what you mean it’s strange how having Neanderthal DNA has made us (apparently)  stronger ( as DNA diversity goes) as a species. Pure race my ass we’re all mutts descended  from even dumber apes

      1. well, “us” only applies to non-africans. If you want to argue that neanderthal dna makes us stronger as a species, you’d be claiming that Africans lack that thing which makes non-Africans ‘stronger’

        1. Yes I guess I did and while “stronger” might be a poor choice of words more diverse DNA is the result and it is a fact that Neanderthal DNA has enriched our DNA , see sickle cell anemia for example. And to the douche that posit that  Neanderthal DNA has somehow made white people more prone toward violence, why don’t you take a stroll down on the south side of Chicago sometime then come and talk about violent people

          1. Not quite with you there. The gene pool of non-africans was pretty shallow to begin with, coming from a relatively small number of emigrants, while the african population represents the original population, and you’d thus expect it to be vastly more diverse. (Anyone know of any data on that?) A bit of neanderthal might have made us better off than we’d otherwise have been, but the human diaspora as a whole would still have been mostly cut off from the more diverse source population.

  5. The spelling for the German word “thal” or valley changed to “tal” in 1901. So in Germany, the valley as well as the species is spelled Neadertal whereas it used to be Neaderthal. In addition, even with the th spelling, American and British scientists typically pronounce it neadertal instead of neaderthal.

    1. You forgot the n.

      The Neandertaler as they are called in German however still remain Homo (sapiens) neanderthalensis in scientific taxonomy.

  6. Thanks for this– I’ve kept it unread for a while now, since I want to devote a lot of attention to it.  I got my undergrad in anthropology, so this sort of stuff is in my wheelhouse, & as a kicker, I use Neanderthals (well, I call ’em “Karnaks”) as a “race” in my RPG campaign, so I’ll be mining this.

Comments are closed.