Neandertal phylogeography

Genetic Evidence of Geographical Groups among Neanderthals:

The Neanderthals are a well-distinguished Middle Pleistocene population which inhabited a vast geographical area extending from Europe to western Asia and the Middle East. Since the 1950s paleoanthropological studies have suggested variability in this group. Different sub-groups have been identified in western Europe, in southern Europe and in the Middle East. On the other hand, since 1997, research has been published in paleogenetics, carried out on 15 mtDNA sequences from 12 Neanderthals. In this paper we used a new methodology derived from different bioinformatic models based on data from genetics, demography and paleoanthropology. The adequacy of each model was measured by comparisons between simulated results (obtained by BayesianSSC software) and those estimated from nucleotide sequences (obtained by DNAsp4 software). The conclusions of this study are consistent with existing paleoanthropological research and show that Neanderthals can be divided into at least three groups: one in western Europe, a second in the Southern area and a third in western Asia. Moreover, it seems from our results that the size of the Neanderthal population was not constant and that some migration occurred among the demes.

Here's a schematic showing the models that they tested, with 3 being the one that the data support:

i-fa7f1ac315a03f23f8d74a8bb9a0c1f3-journal.pone.0005151.g001.png

And a map of the regions which these where these three populations were extant:

i-820362f0e4bf90a1b1436a9079a423ba-journal.pone.0005151.g002.png

The authors are careful to hedge and caution a great deal about these findings. Small sample sizes as well as fragmentary genetic material (only mtDNA) means that one should take the conclusions with a grain of salt. But to be frank the same issues with the size and representativeness of data sets could be brought to bear to critique conventional paleoanthropology with its reliance on a small number of fossils, so it seems that this sort of work will be a useful supplement.

Citation: Fabre V, Condemi S, Degioanni A (2009) Genetic Evidence of Geographical Groups among Neanderthals. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5151. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005151

More like this

There are 9 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one…
Map of newly extended certainty of Eurasian Neanderthal range. From Nature It has for some time been difficult to assess the eastern limit of classic "Neanderthals." Some have claimed that Neanderthals were limited to western Asia, others that they extended across much of Asia. The fossil remains…
In my discussion with Eliezer I referred to "recreational genetics." Basically, "for entertainment purposes only" genetics. For example, someone with blue eyes confirming that they have the alleles on OCA2 & HERC2 associated with blue eyes. Or a man with the surname O'Neill discovers that he…
There's a new paper on ancient DNA out, Targeted Retrieval and Analysis of Five Neandertal mtDNA Genomes: Analysis of Neandertal DNA holds great potential for investigating the population history of this group of hominins, but progress has been limited due to the rarity of samples and damaged state…

As I'm sure you're aware, any discussion of population grouping makes you a total racist.

You must be really insecure if you're fascinated by population data. Why do you hate neandertals so much?

By Spaulding (not verified) on 15 Apr 2009 #permalink

As I am sure #1 is aware, any snide comments on racism makes one an a$$hole.

By Gill Bates (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink

Why was Spaulding's comment even posted?

By Steve Singer (not verified) on 17 Apr 2009 #permalink