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Are modern humans biologically related to Neanderthals

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Wolpoff (2009) provides a different view by suggesting that interbreeding was an important aspect of human evolution, and anatomical difference and gene flow restriction could indicate that Neanderthals were indeed humans. Like Mellars (2004), Wolpoff suggests that there is variation in the genetic ancestry of Neanderthals and modern human. Studies of Mitochondrial and nuclear genome demonstrate a variation in the genetic makeup of Neanderthals and modern humans. Wolpoff uses theories from past studies to argue that the use of mitochondrial DNA in the study of Neanderthals is no longer because Neanderthal haplogroup does not exist anymore, and selection usually affects the evolution of mitochondrial DNA.

However, hominids from Eurasia showed an indication of Mitochondrial DNA related to Neanderthals. This shows that the Neanderthals were spread across Eurasia. There is also an evidence of selective sweep which involved the study of a mitochondrial genome of Vindija 33.16 Neanderthal. This genetic study indicated that one of the genes had four amino acids found in human’ s Mitochondrial DNA. The same amino acids were also found in other primate species. Therefore, variation humans and Neanderthals were caused by recurrent selection.

Wolpoff (2009) speculates that such results are only possible if the existing Mitochondrial DNA replaced the Neanderthal lineage due to selection.   This article also suggests that the study of alleles indicate the presence of modern alleles in Neanderthal samples. For example, the study on FOXP2 gene which represents human language. The presence of the gene in Neanderthal samples could be due to interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals, although the direction of interbreeding is not certain (Wolpoff, 2009). However, there are arguments against evidence which suggest that the samples from the Neanderthals could be contaminated.

Furthermore, there could be a possibility that the FOXP2 could be shared between Neanderthals and modern humans due to descent from a common ancestor between the two populations.  

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