Re: Neanderthal DNA

Glenn Morton (
Sat, 12 Jul 1997 15:13:46 -0500

At 08:41 AM 7/12/97 -0500, Dick Fischer wrote:

>Let's pause a moment to think this through. If we are Homo sapiens sapiens,
>and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis are proper designations, then we are/were
>related sub-species capable of interbreeding. Okay, if my brother remains
>childless he will leave no progeny. But the Neanderthals were a large
>geographically-dispersed population in the same regions as Homo sapiens
>for a long period of time, one would think that if they were capable of
>interbreeding, they would have. This finding suggests that even assuming
>Neanderthals branched off the same limb we did, they speciated eventually.
>That would mean that Neanderthals (now the proper designation) are a
>separate species from Homo sapiens. We are as horses are to zebras, for
>example, incapable of breeding, not as dogs are to wolves, occasionally
>having litters.

One has to be careful about the definition of species. Usually with living
things it has to do with ability to interbreed and produce fertile offspring
(I am aware that there are other definitions). In the case of Neanderthal
and Homo erectus, obviously we can't dig them up, have sex with them and
produce anything. So there is no way to determine species via the
interbreeding definition and to me that is the best definition for
speciation. In anthropology, Neanderthals are classified in the same species
as we are. They are a subspecies, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and we are
Homo sapiens sapiens (we have the big ego by attaching two 'wise's" to our
type, but their brains were bigger than ours.) By this taxonomy, they are
saying that we could have interbred with a Neanderthal (ugly though they
might be).

Overall, there are very few differences between us and the Neanderthals.
They have a retromolar space between the back of the last molar and the jaw
bone, they have wider noses with a couple of bones which the modern Kalahari
Bushmen also have. If that is all it takes to be a different species, then
the Chinese and Europeans are different species, yet mixed couples from
these races have children with no problem.

>BTW, would this mean that Adam was the head of more than one species?

I tend to think along with Leakey who said,

"I propose that we project Homo sapiens as a species that can be traced from
the present, back to a littel over two million years. At certain points in
time, changes occur in the basic morphology, but these are better expressed
as stages of change rather than as separate species." Richard Leakey,
"Recent Fossil finds from East Africa," in J. R. Durant, ed. _Human origins_
(Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp 43062, p. 57.

The Atapuercans who are believed to be the ancestors of the Neanderthals who
buried their dead in the Sima de los Huesos in Spain, 800,000 years ago,
have brain sizes (ca. 1250 cc) which are only slightly smaller than the
modern average, ca. 1370 cc. But we christians won't call them
theologically, humans.
(see E. Aquirre, "Homo erectus and Homo sapiens: One or More Species?"
Courier Forschungs-Inst. Senckenberg 171:333-339, p. 335)


Foundation, Fall and Flood