In short, they interbred, according to Svante Pääbo, a Swedish biologist and pioneer of paleogenetics, the study of preserved genetic material from the remains of ancient organisms, including ancient human DNA. He has served as director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, since 1997.
He explains in this lecture that Neanderthals and Denisovans have a common ancestor in Africa. About half a million years ago, these species of humans came out of Africa and evolved into what we call Neanderthals in Western Eurasia and Denisovans in Eastern Eurasia. Much later modern humans appeared in Africa and then spread, initially to the Middle East, then to Eurasia where they encountered Neanderthals and Denisovans. Eventually, those earlier species became extinct, replaced by modern humans.
Pääbo’s lab famously retrieved and sequenced ancient Neanderthal DNA and produced a high-quality genome sequence that allowed for the reconstruction of the recent evolutionary history of our species. Once the genome was sequenced and studied it became apparent that ancient and modern humans interbred. In fact, most present-day humans have some Neanderthal DNA.
Svante Pääbo’s was selected by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the UC San Diego as the recipient of the 2018 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest. He gave this fascinating lecture on that occasion.
Watch A Neanderthal Perspective on Human Origins with Svante Pääbo – 2018 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest
The oceans are very big, very deep and their exploration continues to reveal strange new animals. Come along as Scripps Oceanography’s Greg Rouse reviews some of the more famous discoveries from the last century, and shares some recent amazing discoveries particularly focusing on California and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Find out about the bizarre bone-eating worms known as Osedax, the green bomber worm Swima, the enigmatic Xenoturbella, and recent work on the extraordinary Ruby Seadragon.
Watch Deep Discoveries in the 2000s: Bone-eaters, Green Bombers, Ruby Seadragons and More!
As humankind faces massive changes in weather patterns, sea level, ocean acidity, and oxygen levels, Scripps Oceanography has launched a new center focused on understanding and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Mark Merrifield, director of the new center explains how the members of this dynamic network will develop strategies for climate change adaptation.
Watch Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations
The 12th NASA Administrator, Charles F. Bolden Jr., shares how NASA’s programs and missions function as an instrument of international cooperation, demonstrating the steady guidance of the United States as the world’s leader.
Watch NASA International Cooperation – An Instrument of US Soft Power with Charles Bolden – 2017 Nierenberg Prize Lecture
Mangroves, trees that form forests in the transition between land and sea, provide a habitat for a great diversity of plants and animals worldwide. These coastal ecosystems are invaluable to humans, supplying a number of services essential for our survival. We still do not know how much these ecosystems are worth from an economic perspective – but they are essential from an ecological perspective. Scripps Oceanography’s Octavio Aburto examines mangrove ecosystems and explains why it is vital to put enormous efforts into understanding their value.
Watch Mangroves: The Skin of Our Coasts
Check out the Jeffrey B. Graham Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series archives