What Do Humans and Neanderthals Have in Common? A Mysterious Ancestor that Links the Evolution of Both


An analysis of 1.000 teeth from humans and our close relatives is revealing that Modern Humans and Neanderthals diverged around 800.000 years ago. A previous estimation was made some time ago, and it was believed that the split between humans and Neanderthals was between 500.000 and 300.000 years ago. The researchers have made some dental analysis, and they are making some assumptions with the result. The idea is that the teeth from Neanderthals have evolved steadily. If the analysis and calculations are correct, the results could change some perspectives.

The study

Nine hundred thirty-one teeth were studied, and they belonged to 122 individuals from humans and our close relatives. From the total of 931 teeth, 164 of the teeth were discovered to be from the Neanderthals that have been found in Sima de Los Huesos, Spain. This sample has presented 30 individuals that have lived 430.000 years ago in the Pleistocene Epoch.

However, Aida Gomez-Robles, a paleoanthropologist from the University College London, has calculated and compared the differences in the teeth shape between the samples. By doing that, she has calculated the evolution rate for the dental form and changes. The result is showing the divergence from the last common ancestor of the Neanderthals and Modern Humans.

Also, the results have shown that the common ancestor of the Neanderthals and Modern Humans is Homo Heidelbergensis. If they remain at this result, that means Homo Heidelbergensis it’s postdating the divergence between Modern Humans and Neanderthals. So the possibility of Homo Heidelbergensis being the common ancestor is out, and it’s needed for a search on the older species.

Finally, the cross between Neanderthals and Humans was made 60.000 years ago, when a part of the Modern Humans have left Africa. The most surprising fact is the idea that even if the divergence between Modern Humans and Neanderthals was made 800.000 years ago, they have managed to interbreed 60.000 years ago. So Gomez-Robles conclude that almost one million years of evolution wasn’t enough to put some barriers to separate the two species (even genetic, behavioral, and endocrinological).


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