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Remains of the first Neanderthal family just revealed something interesting about our ancestors – Teach Me Science

Depicts a Neanderthal father and daughter (who lived approximately 54,000 years ago) whose remains were discovered in a Russian cave. | Image credit: Tom Bjorkland

In recent years, scientists have been able to take advantage of technological advances that allow them to conduct more precise studies that were unimaginable in the past.

In recent years, as tools for conducting various investigations have been continuously improved, important discoveries have been made about Neanderthals who lived about 430,000 to 40,000 years ago.

For the first time, scientists have successfully determined the family relationships of Neanderthals based on remains found in two Siberian caves. Although not the first fossils of the species studied, they are the first unisolated remains of the species, establishing a link between them.

The study, published in the prestigious journal Nature, may be the oldest recorded family including an adult, a teenager and other relatives whose fossils were found in a Russian cave.

There is also a child between the ages of 8 and 12, and an adult relative who, based on genetic testing, is an aunt, cousin or grandmother.

Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), our closest evolutionary relatives, hunted large animals and spread across Europe and Siberia.

Despite the discovery of some fossils of our ancestors, little is known about the size of Neanderthal groups and their social organization.

A large number of stone tools and animal bones were found in the cave, leading researchers to believe it was a small hunter-gatherer community of 10 to 20 members. The remains date back 54,000 years, and no evidence of intermarriage was found despite the Denisovan community being 100 kilometers away.

Since the degree of genetic diversity shown in the study is similar to that of endangered species, it is also possible to infer the role of women in the community, observing that they are the ones who migrate to other communities.

Among the studies conducted to come to this conclusion were comparisons of the genetic diversity of the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son, with the genetic diversity of mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on from mother.

The study and analysis of the remains were carried out by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Leipzig, Germany, led by Svante Pääbo, known for his pioneering work on ancient DNA. Won this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine.

“Our study provides a concrete picture of what Neanderthal communities might have looked like. It makes me wonder,” said Benjamin Peter, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and one of the study’s authors. They feel more like humans. “

Neanderthals are known to have used complex hunting methods in groups, created art (paintings), and owned symbolic objects. Despite the advances our ancestors have made, the role our species played is unclear, and it is believed that Homo sapiens may have contributed to its extinction.

The findings were published in the journal Nature.

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