Thursday, November 09, 2006

Neanderthal update Could our big brains come from Neanderthals?
Neanderthals may have given the modern humans who replaced them a priceless gift -- a gene that helped them develop superior brains, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

And the only way they could have provided that gift would have been by interbreeding, the team at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Chicago said.

Their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides indirect evidence that modern Homo sapiens and so-called Neanderthals interbred at some point when they lived side by side in Europe.

I did a "Huh?" on this item at first, but figured Hawks had blogged on it and he seems to like it. There are a couple more posts on introgression around that linked post, so make sure you read those, too. They don't exclusively target Neanderthals but posit them as a likely archaic source. The paper itself is up on PNAS (open access, it appears) so do check it out.