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Humans and Neanderthals Had Sex. Was it For Love?

Gene sequencing the last few years has yielded amazing information about our early ancestors. With the exception of those of purely sub-Saharan African origins, present-day humans contain a small amount (1.5 to 2.1 percent) of Neanderthal DNA. Which means they interbred at some point. Actually, many points, as geneticists have pinpointed different times in history where Neanderthal genes entered our pool, and different genes stuck around. Imagining the scenario in which this happened would be horrifying to humans of a hundred years ago, because they envisioned Neanderthals to resemble the 1909 image above. But more recent recreations give us a different picture of Neanderthals.

(Image credit: Smithsonian Institution)

Sex between the two species could have happened in many ways. When tiny bands of Homo sapiens nomads reached Europe from Africa, they may have been thrilled to meet other humans, even if they were different. The conquering newcomers may have raped or taken slaves from Neanderthal tribes. They may have taken in orphan children from the already-declining Neanderthals. Modern humans may have even lived alongside Neanderthals. And it’s possible that they didn’t even recognize the Neanderthals as different. There’s also the possibility that all of these things happened at different times. Read what scientists know and don’t know about human-Neanderthal sex at Vox. -via Digg


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