In fourth grade if someone called you a Neanderthal, you probably needed some ice for that burn. As I grew up my knowledge of human evolution grew past name-calling and Ice Age the movie. H. neanderthalensis, more commonly known as “Neanderthal”, scavenged, reproduced, and hunted during the last great ice age. Upon studying the remains, are able to conclude that H. neanderthalensis’ physical features such as a large nose can be related back to the harsh ice age climate that they had to endure.
Since the discovery of the Neanderthal species, we have since came to the understanding that there is a definite overlap between Homo sapiens. With this overlap, there is a chance that is increased with both groups living in close proximity, of possible interbreeding. Numerous studies have been conducted in order to see if there is any evidence of the two species successfully reproducing a healthy offspring. Geneticists have reconstructed the entire Neanderthal genome, as stated in our lecture, back in 2010. Other researchers have conducted studies in modern human DNA to see if they can tie specific sequences back to the Neanderthals. From my knowledge, if H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens did reproduce, there might be a tough time producing a healthy offspring. When two close species reproduce, their offspring is limited to three scenarios. The first option is an unsuccessful offspring, dies either in the womb or immediately after birth. Second, is a physically healthy offspring, however the offspring is reproductively sterile. For example, a mule AKA horse-donkey offspring is almost always sterile. Horses have 64 chromosomes while donkeys have 62 leaving the mule with 63. If this were the case with Neanderthals and modern humans, finding evidence of a hybrid will decrease exponentially. The third option is a successful reproduction resulting in a physically healthy offspring capable of reproduction. This happens when chromosomes from mom and dad are able to line up and fuse properly. With the complete Neanderthal genome we currently have and potential access to millions of research participants around the world, we can study the Neanderthal DNA and compare it to modern human DNA. If H. neanderthalensis and H. sapien did reproduce, there might still be evidence circulating around the world.
Neanderthals are giving us an insight into the past and how evolution occurred to mold and form modern day humans. Neanderthal behavior can tell us how they adapted to their harsh environment and how human behavior might have also evolved. There has been evidence found of burials, which we can study to find reasoning behind this behavior. Since Neanderthals did live during the ice age there has been evidence of cannibalism during rough periods of food shortages. We can compare survival cannibalism to the gravesites of other individuals and find reasoning behind these two behaviors and how it might have happened in Homo sapiens. There are endless topics we can study about Neanderthals that can be connected to modern day humans. Since we a so alike, we can use the Neanderthal’s history to learn about our own where there has been no prehistoric evidence.