Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Svante, I am a Neandertal

The Guardian's Notes and Theories has a column on the mail that Svante Pääbo received after delivering the revelation that Neandertals and Early modern humans interbred. They write:
In the months after the paper was published, Pääbo began to receive letters and emails from people who had read about the work. He decided to keep track of the correspondence, at least until September that year, to see if any trends appeared. He wasn't disappointed.

Some 45 men wrote in to declare themselves fully or partially Neanderthal and several asked if they should provide saliva samples for Pääbo to analyse. Over the same few months, only two women wrote in to declare themselves of Neanderthal stock.
I think that it was Dave Frayer who once said that, on an individual trait basis, you could see the remnants of Neandertals in the modern European populations but that if you took the whole suite of Neandertal traits, there wasn't a person alive who had them. I wonder what led the women to think they were Neandertals? “Evening vear. Svimvear. Very nice!”

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