Some weird results on potential Neanderthal interbreeding are coming out. Nature News has a write-up. Hat tip, Vaughan Bell.
Have any identifiable Neanderthal remains been found in that region of the world? How could interbreed without leaving remains behind?
i think carl’s title was tongue-in-cheek i’ve read that there was a find from sichuan which had a neandertal morphology, but i haven’t seen that that was published.
Well, if the results of the analysis of the DNA of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis were to prove inconclusively that the two interbred, wouldn’t we, by definition, have either a new synonymy, or at least, a revised status in the nomenclature: Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens sapiens?
Note: Homo neanderthalensis came first in the geological record, but Homo sapiens surely has nomenclatural priority, precluding the more natural combination: Homo neanderthalensis sapiens.
but Homo sapiens surely has nomenclatural priority
Certainly has; it was described by Linnaeus in 1758.
I’m intrigued by the suggestion in the Nature article that the second period of interbreeding (c45k b.p.) affected modern populations in Oceania. I understood Australia and New Guinea were settled long before that, and the other island populations were close to various mainland groups, as in ‘the population from the first interbreeding went on to migrate to Europe, Asia and North America’. So where are these people hanging out, and how did they miss the ‘population from the first interbreeding’ getting there?
Re priority of Homo sapiens Linnaeus 1758
Homo neanderthalensis was the first fossil hominid to be named, but that did not occur until 1864.
A little bit of interbreeding does not on its own necessitate any taxonomic/nomenclatural change (thank the designer). Hybridization around the period (not point) of speciation seems to be pretty common but as long as gene flow remains relatively limited the species maintain separate identities.
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Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The Loom. He is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.