Neanderthals!

So I still haven’t tracked down anything I consider a good source on the percent of Neanderthal DNA in people from particular regions of Europe, and I should note that at this point, I consider pretty much *everything* in the field of Neanderthal DNA in modern homo Sapiens quite speculative and not nearly has solid as people make it ought to be. But it’s still really interesting stuff, so here goes. I’ll start with a little background information in case you haven’t been following along:

1. Modern people tend to have a little bit of archaic DNA from non-human hominins. Pretty much everyone outside of Africa (including African Americans and even some Africans) has Neanderthal DNA; folks down in Papua New Guinea also have Denisovan DNA (I can’t remember if people outside of PNG have Denisovan.) People in Africa, I hear, have their own admixture from whoever else was living down in Africa. Oh, and people in Tibet have admixture from the hominins who used to live in Tibet before them.

2. Interestingly, the Neanderthal DNA does not appear to be concentrated where you’d think it would be. Sure, Neanderthals themselves hung out primarily in Europe and the Middle East, but American Indians seem to have the most Neanderthal DNA, followed by East Asians. (I consider these findings especially speculative.)

I have noticed in studying maps of different waves of human migrations that where one wave follows another, the first wave ends up way out in the fringes. Take, for example, the parts of Europe where people speak Celtic languages. Celtic languages were once widespread in Europe, covering France, Spain, Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, and a few other places, like possibly a town in Turkey. Today, Celtic languages are spoken in isolated pockets on the outer costs of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. There are a few other isolated spots on the mainland coast where the languages persisted until fairly recently. Germanic peoples invaded all of these countries, taking them over and imposing their languages, until the Celtic languages are only left at the fringes, in places protected by their isolation.

So, likewise, perhaps Europe itself, being closer to Africa, had more invasions and so ended up with less Neanderthal DNA than the Americas, which were really bloody hard to invade.

There are a lot of other ways one group could get more Neanderthal DNA than another.

3. So how Neanderthal are you? On average, I believe non-African people have about 2.5% Neanderthal DNA.

For perspective, you have 32 great-great-great grandparents, who were probably born around 150 years ago, and 64 great-great-great-great grandparents, whom we’ll just neatly say were born around 170 years ago.

1/32 = 3.1%, so you’d expect to receive about 3.1% of your DNA from each of your 3xGreat Grandparents. 1/64 = 1.6%, so you get about 1.6% from each of your 4X Great Grandparents. So that’s where the average person’s Neanderthal contribution is–it’s like having one Neanderthal ancestor from the mid 1800s.

A lot of people claim to be ethnically Irish based on less.

4. I suspect Europe’s Neanderthal hotspot is Sardinia.

Speculations later.

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One thought on “Neanderthals!

  1. […] Neanderthals! Review: Decoding Neanderthals on PBS (Nova), When Enthusiasm was a Dirty Word, No, hunter gatherers were not peaceful paragons of gender equality, The genome-wide structure of the Jewish people, Human Admixture Chart, The Khazar Theory, Shakerin’ It, Oops, Looks like it was People, not Pots, Why an African Parasite got named “American Killer”, Cargo Cults, Why do Patriotic Americans like the Confederate Flag? AIDS and California, The Past Makes ISIS Look Good, West African Marriage and Child-Rearing Norms vs. African American Norms, The Genghis Khans of Europe, Germans, (Gypsies), Pygmies: Among the world’s most isolated peoples, or archaic hominin admixture? Are the Pygmies Retarded? Some Notable Nigerians, Into Africa: The Great Bantu Migration, Why do Native Americans have so much Neanderthal DNA? South Africa, democracy, and the dangers of demographics (part 1), South Africa, Democracy, and the dangers of Demographics (pt. 2), Stolen Land, Do Biker Lives Matter? Harleys, Exit, and Thedic Signaling, Species of Exit: The Sentinelese, the World’s Most Isolated People  (going up tomorrow) […]

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