genetic holes

20 Feb 2016

It seems that even genetics can get frenetic over when genetic changes might have taken place. This new discipline, presented as almost infallible, has been holed on the under side. At ... where sex is included as an attractor as a light is to a moth. The subject is genetics and inheritance of traits. Some four per cent of Neanderthal genes are said to be preserved in Europeans, for example, but the big question is, how much more genetic material was once part of European genes. How much has been lost over the course of time. Naturally, the consensus view that Neanderthals survived in Europe until around 40,000 years ago would not provide a lot of time for dilution. Therefore, this new piece of research is interesting in more than one way.

We have been informed on countless occasions that any Neanderthal genes we have inherited is slight - and we are almost wholly modern humans (what is four per cent between friends). However, the arrival of modern humans in the ancient world has been brought forward due to a number of discoveries. One of these of course is the evidence that Aborigines were living in Australia from around 50,000 years ago. It therefore follows that modern humans with an origin in Africa had to migrate all the way there in a decreasing amount of time. The cue therefore was to upgrade the date of Out of Africa - or that is what seems to be the impetus. It has unintended consequences however as it provides more time over which the percentage of Neanderthal genes in modern Europeans has to dilute. It was forced on anthropologists, it would seem, by the discovery that modern European genes were evident in central and east Asia earlier than in Europe and this was followed by the Denisovan bone found in a cave in Siberia that suggested modern human traits were already inherent there at a point in time earlier than Out of Africa allowed. Rather than switch from an Out of Africa focus to the development of modern humans in Asia, as some scientists have suggested, they have taken the Out of Africa journey back in time - to around 100,000 years ago (in a move to neutralise the negative data). So, we now have the idea that modern humans had sex with Neanderthals 100,000 years ago but really it is all guesswork derived from small pieces of evidence (such as the odd finger bone).