Who were the Neanderthals?

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Who were the Neanderthals? Blog Image

Overview:

A comparison of the genomes of a Neanderthal who lived 120,000 years ago in Siberia with those from modern humans in sub-Saharan Africa has revealed insight into the migratory and interbreeding history of both species.

About Neanderthals

  • They are the closest known human relatives and interbred with Homo sapiens.
  • Species: Homo neanderthalensis
  • They lived throughout Europe and parts of Asia from about 400,000 until about 40,000 years ago.
  • Current evidence from both fossils and DNA suggests that Neanderthal and modern human lineages separated at least 500,000 years ago.
  • Neanderthals co-existed with modern humans for long periods of time before eventually becoming extinct.
  • Although they are long extinct, their genes are still present in modern human DNA. 
  • Features:
    • Some defining features of their skulls include the large middle part of the face, angled cheek bones, and a huge nose for humidifying and warming cold, dry air. 
    • Their bodies were shorter and stockier than modern humans, another adaptation to living in cold environments.
    • But their brains were just as large as modern humans and often larger - proportional to their brawnier bodies.
    • Their bones reveal that they were extremely muscular and strong, but led hard lives, suffering frequent injuries.
    • Neanderthals made and used a diverse set of sophisticated tools, controlled fire, lived in shelters, made and wore clothing, were skilled hunters of large animals and also ate plant foods, and occasionally made symbolic or ornamental objects. 
    • There is evidence that Neanderthals deliberately buried their dead and occasionally even marked their graves with offerings, such as flowers.

Q1) What is DNA?

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).

Source: Humans and Neanderthals mated 250,000 years ago, much earlier than thought