It’s all in the family
Lucy Aylmer discusses the newly-complicated family tree of our species.
As plotlines go, the human origin story is pretty confusing; it’s a tale of separation, convergence and interbreeding. Our ancestors were a racy bunch, that’s for sure. And we thought a zorse (zebra and horse) hybrid was exotic… Anyway, enough of this love story and back to the hardcore science.
“The human origin story is pretty confusing”
Alan Rogers of the University of Utah has discovered the earliest interbreeding event in history, between the Neanderthal-Denisovan ancestors and the ‘super-archaics’, their Eurasian precedessors, around 700,00 years ago, according to Science Daily. This groundbreaking discovery identifies that the Neanderthals and Denisovans separated much earlier than prior records state. The significance in this story becomes clear because the groups were found to be more evolutionarily distant from each other than in any previous mating.
Through using historical data concerning genetic patterns, Professor Rogers used statistical analysis to understand hominin breeding. Rogers clearly emphasises the importance of working with what we have and exhausting current material in order to re adjust perspectives and acquire news way of examining the data.
“Ultimately, all living organisms are reliant and connected to one another”
Does this new finding behave as a metaphor for overcoming difference through unity? Two contrasting hominins interbred to produce a species that has evolved today to become the most civilised and successful species to wander Earth. The overcoming of disparities and genetic variance has been achieved through the unifying act of interbreeding. Perhaps this story is so close to our hearts because it details how humans are not too dissimilar to our mammal cousins. Whilst unification is a clear theme in human evolution, it can behave as a reminder of our responsibility and stewardship we have towards our environment. Ultimately, all living organisms are reliant and connected to one another, making us equal players in a rather unequal playing field.