How far back does your family tree go? No matter what your answer to that question may be, your family tree leaves out your earliest ancestors. Modern humans are related to Neanderthals. Scientists recently found a skeleton that is a hybrid between Neanderthals and humans.
The Smithsonian has put together what amounts to the Human Family Tree. Individuals are not listed on it. Instead, it includes one place on the tree for each of the groups of humans that came before us.
Modern humans belong to the Homo group. We are Homo sapiens. In the next row, we have Homo neanderthalensis, Homo floresiensis, and Homo heilderbergensis. Moving down the tree, we see Homo erectus in the next row, and Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis in the row after that.
There are there other major branches to this family tree. One branch shows Paranthropus group. Another holds the Australopithecus group, and the last one is for the Ardipithecus group.
Neanderthals are our closest extinct human relative. There are some direct-to-consumer DNA tests out that can tell you how much of your DNA came from Neanderthal ancestors. Certain traits are said to have originated with the Neanderthals. Genetic research has shown that the DNA of people with European and Asian ancestry is 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal.
The bodies of Neanderthals were shorter and stockier than ours. Their stature helped them to survive in cold environments. So did their noses, which could be described as “huge”. Neanderthals made tools, made and wore clothing, and were skilled hunters and gatherers. They were the first of our early human ancestors to not only bury their dead, but also to mark their graves with flowers and other offerings.
Scientists have found the skeletal remains of an individual that is believed to be a hybrid between modern humans and Neanderthals. The person lived in what is now northern Italy around 40,000 to 30,000 years ago. The skeletal remains were found in a rock-shelter that is called Riparo di Mezzena, which is located in the Monti Lessini region of Italy.
It is known that both modern humans and Neanderthals inhabited Europe at the same time. Scientists are focused on the lower jaw of the skeletal remains. Neanderthals had a receding lower jaw that didn’t have much of a chin. Modern humans have a projecting lower jaw with a strongly developed chin. The skeleton has a jaw that looks like an intermediate between the two.
The mitochondrial DNA of the individual has been revealed. This type pf DNA is passed from mother to child. From this, scientists conclude that the parents of the individual whose skeletal remains were found included a female Neanderthal and a male Homo sapiens.
Image by Matt Celeskey on Flickr.
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