Monday, 21 November 2011

Neanderthal hybrids

Ah believe this is the paper reportit in the press this week (e.g. in the Telegraph), though in a gey distortit wey. It’s ‘Modeling Human Ecodynamics and Biocultural Interactions in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia’ by C. Michael Barton, Julian Riel-Salvatore et al, in the journal Human Ecology (online preview).

The take-away message for the journos seems tae be that the Neanderthals were awfa clever, an therefore parteecularly desirable as mates. Oor Neanderthal correspondent wadna dispute that, naiterally, bit whit the authors are sayin in fact, is juist that there nae need tae assume that the Neanderthals was in ony wey inferior tae the Modrens.

The study is in twa pairts. The first establishes (yaisin the evidence o stane tuils – it’s ingenious, bit Ah’ll no gang intae the details) that baith Neanderthals an Modrens chynged the wey they muved aboot “over the course of the Late Pleistocene”. Ower time, baith lots got less inclined tae flit their hale camp, an mair inclined tae sattle in yin place, sendin oot huntin baunds. Thir mobile pairties wis able tae cover a muckler area, drawin on wider resources, as the climate got harsher. The pynt is that this made it likelier that the twa lots wad rin intae ilk ither.

The saicont pairt o the study rins computer simulations tae see whit wad happen tae the smaaer population o Neanderthals as they interactit wi the muckler population o Modrens. Nae prizes for guessin. It’s extinction by hybridisation.

The authors daes briefly discuss the verra smaa proportion o Neanderthal genes in the Modren population. This cud come aboot simply by hybrids breedin back intae the larger Modren population. Bit they mention forbye that wi ither mammal species there aften a situation whaur hybrids is mair viable breedin back in yin direction nor in the ither. This is pretty much the scenario that Braken Fences envisages.

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