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
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
Many people envision Baja California as a land of glittering bars, cruise ship crowds, and esplanades full of souvenirs of Ensenada or Cabo San Lucas. In reality, Baja California is a vast, mostly uninhabited expanse of remote undeveloped lands with unique flora, untouched wildlife, and prehistoric cultural treasures.
Within just a long day’s drive of the southern California megalopolis and it’s uber-developed coast and crowded beaches one can find hundreds of miles of remote, pristine coastlines and desert landscapes.
Research biologist Daniel Cartamil has traveled the Pacific coast of Baja California investigating the health of shark populations for over a decade. In the course of his travels, he has created a photographic chronicle of this paradise of remote landscapes and shares this visual journey on Baja’s Wild Side.
Click here to watch more programs from this series.
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