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Bigfoot Family Tree

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 18th, 2006

Bigfoot Family Tree

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François Vanasse and an associate (HP) have created the Bigfoot family tree shown above.

Here’s Vanasse’s comment on it, followed by his colleague’s:

+++++++

“First off, this is assuming that any of these creatures actually exist, and are biological…. To start with we placed all of these into the family of Great Apes, but have created a new subfamily called ‘Ferrisvirae’ which literally means ”wild men” and includes both imaginary genuses of Megapodapthecae and Capleoferrae. Sivapithecus is the ancestor of Gigantopithecus and hence the possible ancestor of Capleoferrae. However in our tree we chose to have Megapodapithecae branch out in the early stages of Gigantopithecus evolution. There are a myriad of other possible ancestor candidates, Giganto and Sivapithecus are only 2 major candidates. This evolutionary tree places the beginning of Bigfoot evolution at about 8 million years ago. The current species names are open to suggestion, and so is the arrangement of branches. This is the best tree we could create and there are obviously many more additions to come such as the Malaysian Bigfoot, Agogwe, Myakka Ape and others. Hopefully you guys will enjoy this, and any of the species with 3 names are subspecies of the original.

“HP: Although we had already discussed names for Bigfoot, the Yeti and others, I wanted to make an evolutionary tree, so I brought the idea to Vanasse’s attention. We decided to go ahead and make one. I had drawn up the genus and species names (though a few species names were changed later on), and separated Orang-Pendek and the Almas into there own genus named Capleoferrae, due to their smaller size and more human-like appearence. Then we put the other hominids into the Megapodapithecae genus. After that we put them into a subfamily already mentioned by Vanasse. Then afterwards we decided on the likely canidates for their ancestors. Finally we finished and Vanasse insisted on making Sasquatch (M. b. pacifica) a subspecies which now makes a little more sense that it did at the time. So I decided to make the “true” Yeti a subspecies (M. a. thibetanus), since there is another smaller Yeti which I named M. a. pymaeus. Then Vanasse decided to add the Skunk Ape as well which we named M. b. moschata. Then once that was done and we had a few examples of possible subspecies, Vanasse created the tree.

“Please know that we are aware of how little data and information we are actually working with. All of this is mere conjecture, and so criticisms can be as harsh as necessary. Feel free to suggest changes and additions to Ferrisvirae.”

+++++++

I find various problems with their chart. As I note in my book The Field Guide of Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates, there are clear cut differences between unknown hominids and unknown pongids. They all are hominoids, yes, but hominids are not pongids.

I asked Vanesse: “Why is the anthropoid or pongid Skunk Ape seen as more closely related to the humanoid Bigfoot as opposed to the pongid Yeti? Where does Homo floresiensis fit in your chart?”

François Vanasse answered:

+++++++

“The inclusion of the Skunk Ape as a subspecies was more or less a last minute addition, and was not given too much thought.”

“Well, my friend and I were a little unsure about many of the Napes in the southern United States. We had multiple theories which included South American origins, but we eventually decided on making it a subspecies of Bigfoot based on location, as we mentioned before we didn’t have much data to work with and we relied heavily on Cryptozoology A to Z as well as our own understanding of basic evolutionary principles.

“The chart places all of the, for lack of a better word ‘hairy-hominids’ somewhere between Gigantopithecus and orang-utans. Homo floresiensis is part of the genus Homo, which would make him ineligible for this chart as we created 2 new genuses Megapodapithecae (for Yeti, Yowie, and Napes) and Capleoferrae (for Orang-Pendek, Almas, and others.) We are very open to suggested modifications, additions, and reorganizations as it is only a first draft, and nowhere near having all the information available. Since it is only conjecture, virtually anything is possible.”

+++++++

Yikes, the ultimate scary reply: they used Cryptozoology A to Z to construct their chart. I wish they would have used the works of Ivan T. Sanderson, John Napier, Mark Hall, and a dozen other people, as well as instead my classification ideas in The Field Guide of Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates. I don’t know how they got here from there, but I am left pondering the answer, with respect.

Actually, I have much to say about their chart, but I thought it would be an interesting learning/educational experience to open this up for Cryptomundo readers. Therefore, with the authors’ permission, I am posting this “chart of conjecture” here for your discussion, suggested revisions, and additions. Also I have posted Ivan T. Sanderson’s 1961 chart throughout this blog, from his book Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life, for comparative purposes.

Primate Family Tree

Click on image for full-size version

Primate Family Tree

Click on image for full-size version

Paul Smith Bigfoot

Please click to enlarge this image of Bigfoot as drawn by Paul Smith, and sepia-colorized for the cover of Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America.

Primate Family Tree

Click on image for full-size version

Any critiques? Suggestions? Also, if people can point to other Bigfoot family trees, which would be instructive, please do.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


32 Responses to “Bigfoot Family Tree”

  1. monswine responds:

    Is it legitimate for Sanderson to include ancient humans as possible bigfoot & kin ancestors? The problem with both charts is that it’s a bad idea to begin theorizing before any real data is collected, granted Sanderson had much more information to work with.

  2. Loren Coleman responds:

    Of course, it is, as Sanderson and several people see a relationship between what you are calling “ancient humans” and what others might term “fossil hominids” and some unknown hominids and hominoids.

    For example, depending upon whom you talk to in France or Russia, several hominologists would link Almas to Neandertals or Homo erectus. Some theorists do consider that the evidence points to Bigfoot being hominid, not pongid.

  3. jayman responds:

    I can’t say much about Vanasse’s chart other than that it’s pure speculation. Sanderson’s, though, is hopelessly outdated, just considering the known species, on both the Hominid and Pongid sides.

  4. Sky King responds:

    “Some theorists do consider that the evidence points to Bigfoot being hominid, not pongid.”

    Which I happen to subscribe to myself. I see much more persuasive evidence of hominid association than pongid.

    Are the abominalis, pygmaeus and Thibetanus analogous to the Yeh-teh, Meh-teh and Dzu-teh that Sanderson postulated? It seems so to me.

  5. sschaper responds:

    I have concerns about labeling the melanesians and Austalian natives as “primatives.” Likewise with where he puts pygmies. It has a very 19th century, social Darwinian feel to it. (aka racism)

    Likewise for the use of the Nietschian term “submen”, which the Jews were labeled for extinction in the gas chambers.

    Recent DNA studies suggest that caucasians are a good 5% neandertal in ancestery, and that other grouping (modern men are all one race, genetically) have a percentage of interbreeding with other extinct or nearly extinct races. (Almas, anyone?)

    I also agree with the previous posters that it is highly speculative, as we just don’t know, we don’t have any DNA to sequence, we don’t have any specimens to examine.

  6. monswine responds:

    sschaper do you have a source for your comment on Caucasian DNA having neanderthal genes?

  7. kittenz responds:

    Whoa! Caucasians as 5% Neanderthal? Most of the latest reports and articles that I have read have excluded Neanderthals as significant contributors to the modern human gene pool. Instead they are considered to be a distinct species within the genus Homo, which was very successful but not necessarily very closely related to modern humans. Both Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalis are considered by most authorities to have evolved independently from Homo erectus. Maybe they could interbreed successfully, and maybe in isolated incidents they actually did, but most of the information that I have come across says that Neanderthals did not contribute any surviving genetic material to the modern human species.

    I think it is possible that remnant populations of Neanderthal-type people may have survived into fairly recent times in cold, remote areas. I seriously doubt there are any surviving today.

    I too would like to review the source of that “Caucasians as 5% Neanderthal” information.

  8. monswine responds:

    kittenz, I’m afraid I must point out that the current fossil record points to Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens both evolving seperately from Homo heidelbergensis. And you are correct in asserting that the neanderthal DNA pulled from fossils showed that they were indeed sufficiently different from that of a modern humans to be considered their own species.

    I think the biggest mistake cryptozoologists make when studying bigfoot is misunderstanding our fossil ancestors. Neanderthals were in many ways our equal in brain size, language capability, and ingenuity. Recently it was found that the only major drawback of neanderthals was that they had indeed specialized to forest hunting, so much so that their ear canals had changed shape, giving them poor agility. When modern humans arrived on the scene, European forests were giving way to open grasslands, having just emerged from deserts and plains in Africa, Cro-magnons were well suited to the new European environment(and had a variety of tools for the purpose of hunting in the open, such as spear throwers). The point is to show how extinction is often not due to superiority of a rival species, but to happenstance of natural selection.

  9. Sky King responds:

    “Recently it was found that the only major drawback of neanderthals was that they had indeed specialized to forest hunting, so much so that their ear canals had changed shape, giving them poor agility.”

    Unless neanderthalers’ ears were a means of locomotion, I fail to understand this statement.

    I sure would like to see a movie of it, however…

  10. monswine responds:

    in respose to sky king: the bones of the inner ear canal give us our balance. Throughout primate evolution particular areas have grown larger, conferring more and more balance unto the species. However neanderthals represent a curious case in which balance has somehow regressed. It basically means neanderthals couldn’t have run at high speeds, jumping over boulders and dodging objects moving at high speeds because the shape of their inner ear canal limits their ability to stay perpendicular to the ground.

  11. WVBotanist responds:

    I’d say basically, scrap Sanderson’s cladogram (is the vertical axis supposed to represent time on any relative scale?)

    Working forward, from a point immediately prior to Neanderthal (Id still call them hominid) there is the emergence of at least three distinct subspecies (or races). I hesitate to use species because I’d assume shared chromosome number, from that pre-neanderthal stage to present, for most if not all. Neanderthal would basically be an European genus initially equivalent to Megapodapthecae. Speciation then proceeds based on geographic separation (various land bridge, ice flow, and foraging dispersals), with Yeti remaining the most highly conserved (similar to the pre_neanderthal), with Bigfoot/Sasquatch perhaps exhibiting the two subspecies described above (although I’d compare the differences more as local ‘types.’) What we call skunk-ape today is represented by 2 groups, some actual Sasquatch (Megapodapthecae spp.) and some represented by definite pongids but probably not “new” in that they are probably Orangutans. That is to say, the skunk-ape is bigfoot, although often confused with escaped circus animals.
    This theory cannot cover all of the ‘exceptions’, but thats how I have always thought it made the most sense.

  12. MrInspector responds:

    On Neandethal DNA:
    “The two ancient sequences of mitochondrial DNA—inherited from the mother—contain similarities that they do not share with comparable gene sequences in modern humans, report geneticist William Goodwin of the University of Glasgow in Scotland and his coworkers. Further analysis yielded no support for a Neandertal contribution to the modern human mitochondrial DNA pool, the researchers contend.”
    Source

  13. cuddlywill responds:

    On language:

    The most recent evidence shows the evolution of modern human language and behavior happening just before modern human dispersal from Africa, just before 60k years ago. Also there is no genetic evidence of Neandertal genes in modern Europeans.

  14. Ray Soliday responds:

    Is there evidence of bigfoot having a tool kit?, (maybe primative tool making like chimps). Do they make fire? These attributes may be a defining feature of the ancestors of sapians, but these are perpetuated by culture and learning. Is there any evidence of culture (social structure). Then on the other hand, bipedal and no opposible big toe suggests non-pongid, so, now I’ve talking myself into being unsure, so some one elaborate on these two points

  15. Cryptonut responds:

    Scientific critique is important, but for the sake of taking a shot at the potential linneage of unknown cryptids this was a cool idea. I can see where points of view will differ over classification and position on the tree based on morphology and other factors. Until some of these cryptids have been positively identified (and hopefully one day through analysis of live specimens) this is a welcome respite (yawning over Yarwens!) for serious discussion. It would be great for a group of people to put together not only common characteristics, habitat, etc. but to also add a standard (if there could be such a thing) image of each. There’s no harm in taking a SWAG (Scientific Wild A** Guess) at it. In fact, if the authors are willing to update it, both pictures and a small collection of knowledge about each would be a great addition! Great job! :-)

  16. Sky King responds:

    Monswine, if you had said, “…giving them poor balance…”, it would have been clear. Agility and balance are different skill sets. They overlap, but obviously are not the same. Neither can be said to be a subset of the other.

  17. sasquatch responds:

    Wow, so Neandertals were sort of weables that wobbled? And slow to boot?!

  18. kittenz responds:

    “Recently it was found that the only major drawback of neanderthals was that they had indeed specialized to forest hunting, so much so that their ear canals had changed shape, giving them poor agility.”

    I don’t buy this hypothesis. Neanderthals were highly specialized not so much for forest hunting but for survival in cold weather. Although they did probably do much hunting in forests, many lived in sparsely forested areas for generations. They also appear not to have been nomadic, as are almost all populations of modern humans. Neanderthals appear to have lived in small family bands which inhabited relatively small territories, near sources of water, year-round. It is true that they were not built for a nomadic way of life like our species is, but as to becoming extinct due to losing their balance: that doesn’t wash. It takes time for features to evolve to be characteristic of a sprcies. It does not happen in one generation, probably not in a hundred generations, but over thousands of generations. Thousands of generations of Neanderthals did not sit around starving while they waited for their balance and agility to deteriorate. If it is true that Neanderthals’ inner ear was shaped differently (and this is the first I have heard of that; I would be interested to read and evaluate the source material), then there was a favorable evolutionary reason for it.

    Features do not evolve in a vacuum. The fact is that Neanderthal was successful for hundreds of thousands of years. The skeletons of adults show the same kinds of repetitive injuries that occur in rodeo cowboys who routinely engage in close on-hands interaction with large, powerfuul, aggressive animals. Neanderthal people began to decline when the climate of Europe and Asia began to change from an Ice Age climate to a more temperate one, and the large Ice Age fauna on which they survived began to disappear from their regions. Being heavily specialized for cold weather, and not being nomadic & therefore unable to just pick up and move from place to place as large game became more and more scarce, seems to have meant the gradual extinction of the Neanderthal species. I am of the opinion that remnant populations may have survived into recent times, and may even be the source of some of the Bigfoot-type legends.

    “It basically means neanderthals couldn’t have run at high speeds, jumping over boulders and dodging objects moving at high speeds because the shape of their inner ear canal limits their ability to stay perpendicular to the ground.”

    It takes strength and agility to wrestle large animals for a living. Neanderthals did that for thousands of years. They didn’t suddenly lose their balance and become unable to hunt. That is akin to saying that Smilodon became extinct because their teeth grew too large to allow them to open their mouths to eat. They had to exist for thousands of years in order to evolve these features, and features evolve because they give the animal an eveolutionary advantage of some kind.

    Indeed, if we consider Neanderthals to be part of the Ice Age fauna of Eurasia, the decline and eventual extinction of their species can be attributed largely to the global warming that brought about the rather sudden (geologically speaking) end of the Ice Age.

    “I’m afraid I must point out that the current fossil record points to Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens both evolving seperately from Homo heidelbergensis”

    Neanderthals may have evolved from Homo heidelbergensis, which in turn evolved from Homo erectus. The jury is still out on that one but the evidence is intriguing. Modern humans probably did not evolve from Homo heidelbergensis, but separately – either directly from the very widespread genus Homo erectus, or from an as yet unrecognized intermediate descendant of Homo erectus.

  19. monswine responds:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/neanderthal_prog_summary.shtml

  20. jayman responds:

    The Neanderthals evidently diverged from our line between 600,000 and 300,000 years ago, which is very recent as species go. If they were living today, they would be what biologists call a “sibling species”. There is less genetic difference between them and us than there is within many species. The apparent sharp difference is because all living Homo sapiens are so similar genetically, which is something of a mystery. All people today seem to be descendants of a small subgroup of H. sapiens that lived around 40,000-60,000 years ago.

  21. thatericn responds:

    Regarding the “forest dwelling” nature of Neanderthals, from what I have seen from a documentary TV source and an article or two, this issue deals more with technology and material culture more than biology.

    The type of heavy, hard-to-break thrusting spear used by Neanderthals was ill-suited to hunting on wide open plains. Fossil evidence shows signs of exceptional strength in the areas that would be used in this kind of close quarter hunting/combat.

    As the Eurasian climate warmed, the dense forests tended to retreat north, and were superseded by more temperate meadowed woodlands and plains, where the swifter, taller Cro-Magnons, with lighter thrown weapons, had the decided advantage. Neanderthals, who were technologically non-innovative, or at least profoundly conservative to change seemed not to have adapted.

    Apparently Neanderthals did regress in the area of inner ear development, meaning gross motor skills involving balance. I seriously doubt though that as a previous poster noted, that this really effected eye-hand coordination or reflexes, and their rugged build and immense strength would make up a bit inagility. I sure wouldn’t want to get in fight with one of those guys!

  22. monswine responds:

    Yes, thank you thatericn…

    For those of you who may not have followed the news on the recently reconstructed complete skeleton of a neanderthal: It was built using bones from various individuals to create the first ever complete skeleton. Allowing paleoanthropologists who had been studying bone fragments and femurs for years to finally see what the creature looked like put together.

    It would take a long time to explain all of the data but here’s a link to a helpful article I read on the matter a while back from BBC news. There is also a documentary based on the new findings titled “Neanderthal: The Rebirth” which premiered on the Science Channel (part of the Discovery Communications Network) on August 20th of this year.

  23. Mnynames responds:

    Well, 19 comments in, much of what I intended to say has already been said in one form or another. Sanderson’s tree is both hopelessly outdated and very 19th century. Everything I’ve read suggests that H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens evolved from isolated groups of H. heidelbergensis. H. heidelbergensis is also suspected on being capable of speech, indicating that that feature predates them both. Neanderthals have recently been proven to have been capable of speech, although perhaps not quite as refined as ours.

    As for hypothetical cladistics, I’ve always favoured the idea that the Yowie and perhaps some of the more human-like Southeast Asian hominids descend from H. erectus, known to have occupied the region. This is most likely for the Yowie, if for no other reason than it is the only other hominid besides man known to have reached Australia.

    I am suspicious of claims that the Almas, Yeren, and other Russian and Asian hominids are Neanderthals or their descendants. Although some instances of tool-use have been reported, for the most part they seem far too primitive. As I’ve already said, Neanderthals likely had complex speech and a brainpower equal to that of H. sapiens (Actually, their brains were larger, as was their brain-to-body size ratio, the best method we have of determining inherent intelligence). Some have even speculated that early Europeans may have adopted their cultural habits as well, until the Indo-European horsemen wiped most elements of it out.

    I would also hazard a guess that the Orang Pendek and similar hominids are very close relatives of the Orangutan.

  24. twblack responds:

    Yes they do exist someday I will share my story no my fact as well.

  25. sschaper responds:

    You are thinking of nearly 10 year old mitochondrial DNA studies. Mitochondrial DNA is only passed on by the mother – not the father.

    Those studies indicated that Neandertal were only slightly closer to moderns than Mungo Man – an Austrailian aborigine, and very much homo sapiens, not erectus or heidelbergensis. http://www.ridgecrest.ca.us/~do_while/sage/v1i12n.htm

    It was also taken from a hyper-variable region of the mitochondrial DNA and not very helpful in determining relatedness.

    This is new research reported within the last few days, in the journal PloS Genetics, and widely reported in the science-oriented web news sources. http://abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1722109.htm
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/upi/index.php?feed=Science&article=UPI-1-20060829-21370800-bc-us-neanderthal.xml

    I should also point out that recent research shows that not only did the Neandertal have flutes using Pythagorean tuning, but that their material culture was quite sophisticated, no less so that the early moderns who moved into Europe, contrary to the popular brutish image.

  26. things-in-the-woods responds:

    I agree with most of the posters here- this is just too speculative, and it also pays no real attention to the relative feasibility of cryptid hominid species (to give the Yowie the same existential status as the bigfoot seems highly uncritical)- The one point I would like to make is that it is highly unlikely that the new world bigfoot is in any way a remnant hominid or hominid descendent. Morphologically it is too distinct and there is, of course, a complete lack of fossils that suggest either such a species in the americas or the evolution of such a species anywhere. Perhaps, more significantly, behaviourally the bigfoot/sasquatch seems far to ‘primitive’ to be descended from such hominids. Even homo erectus was producing sophisticated stone tool kits, and using them to, at least, scavenge (if not hunt) animal prey, as well as either work or process plant material (such as wood). It probably also at least managed and maintained fire. As I have noted before on this site, there is almost no report of bigfoot/sasquatch using tools (at best improvised clubs or digging sticks). In general their behaviour is much more in line with that of the great apes. As such, probably the best candidate for the origin of bigfoot is gigantipithecus- although even here we face huge problems relating to the lack of fossils either in america or north-east asia, and to the ecological and geographic feasibility of such a species reaching north america (presumably across the bering landbridge).

    Having said all this, there is no harm in the kind of speculative reconstruction that this family-tree represents if we see it as such…

  27. skunkape_hunter responds:

    Someone correct me if I am wrong, or let me know if I am right as well. I am under the impression that there are two, maybe three, sub-species of Skunkape ? To be honest I am not sure where I found this info. I do know for sure that if it was something Dave Shealy came up with I would have disregarded it.

  28. tpeter responds:

    Dear Loren,
    **The “classic” Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti, the “Neo-Giant” of your and Patrick Huyghe’s The Field Guide to Sasquatch and Mystery Primates,is often assumed to be a pongid, largely because of the seeming total lack of cultural behavior (language, clothing, tool use) in the great majority of reports. A few reports, however, do indicate some sort of language–e.g., the 1924 Ostman case, the Carter family case. This, plus the erect stance and the footprints with a non-opposable (human-like) rather than opposable or thumb-like (ape-like) big toe, would seem to suggest a hominid rather than pongid affiliation. Thus, _Paranthropus_ rather than _Gigantopithecus_ might be a more likely Neo-Giant zoological origin. On the other hand, there seem to be no reports of Neo-Giants having even a simple tool kit such as that of _Homo erectus_. But then, the Australopithecines seem to have had no tool kit, either. So, there seems to ne nothing unreasonable in deriving the Neo-Giants from an Australopithecines line, perhaps from _Paranthropus_, that grew to very large size.

    **The “Skunk Apes” or “Napes” on the other hand are far more likely pongids.

    **One detail that has always bothered me is the STENCH so often associated with both Bigfoot and Skunk Apes, seemingly going far beyond any odors normally associated with chimpanzees, gorillas, or orang-utans. It’s this stench that helps give a certain popularity to paranormal and occult theories of Bigfoot and other mystery primates.

    Cheers,
    T. Peter

  29. tpeter responds:

    Dear Loren,
    **I just wonder how many of your other readers or correspondents have asked you about the Bigfoot odor question? As I just wrote a little earlier this morning, references to an overpowering foul odor come up so often in Bigfoot–as well as Skunk Ape–reports, while gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans on the other hand are not particularly noted for an overpowering odor. This, as I said before, is one of the things that really puzzles and bothers me about Bigfoot. It’s also one of those things, I suspect, that helps lend a certain seeming plausibility to paranormal, occult, “psychic,” “demonic,” and “high strangeness” theories of Bigfoot. Any thoughts yourself on this foul odor question? Any other readers have any thoughts?
    Cheers,
    T. Peter

  30. jayman responds:

    Concerning sschaper and others about the research indicating Europeans could be up to 5% Neanderthal genetically, see this article.

  31. corax responds:

    Very interesting, but with so little evidence….

    The comments about Neandertals are worth a response.

    First the comments about genetic similarity. A range of studies have looked specifically at the mtDNA (note not the nuclear DNA) of neanderthals. They all (as far as I am aware) agree that Neandertal mtDNA lies outside the range of variation for modern humans. How significant this is, is a moot point. After all some fossil ‘modern’ human DNA lies outside the range of variation of modern humans (eg Mungo Man).

    It does appear that Neandertals have not contributed mtDNA to modern human populations. Does this mean they are not related, or at least partially ancestral? Not necessarily. After all, your father didn’t contibute to your mtDNA, but he was ancestral to you.

    Its a good idea to compare the actual research papers, and not to the hype.
    The following links go to papers that are relevant:

    Link 1

    Link 2

    Link 3

    Link 4

    Link 5

    The following is very interesting in coming to rather different conclusions, and in my mind is well argued.

    On Mungo Man check.

    Curiously according to an article from Current Biology in June this year, the stratigraphically oldest Neandertals were more different from modern humans than were more recent neanderthals (though overall neanderthal were more similar to each other than to moderns). That takes some explaining, since traditional theory would predict diverging mtDNA sequences not converging ones.

    As for the comment about modern European populations containing 5% Neandertal DNA (note this refers to nuclear DNA not mtDVA)- this is based on this paper.

    And this is quite a good summary.

    It is quite feasible that neanderthals contributed to the nuclear DNA of modern humans, while the mtDNA lineages that derived from them all died out. A good model for how this works is the inheritance of surnames in small relatively closed communities.

    Interestingly there are some morphological features which suggest the possibility of neanderthal characteristics in modern Europeans. Apart from gross morphological features, there some quite specific ones. One that is quite interesting is apparently the position of the nerves entering the jaw bone, which is similar in Neandertals, Cro-magnons and some modern Europeans, but rather different in other humans. I have no idea if it’s convergence or common ancestry, but I find it more indicative than mtDNA.

    Regarding the inner ear structure, check.

    The idea that the difference in inner ear structure translated into a difference in locomotion or balance, as the paper indicates, this is very speculative and is based on a supposed, not proven, correlation.

    Whether or not Neandertals were conspecific with us is still an open question. I don’t think any of the information available is definitive. A lot depends on the species concept you adopt. I like the following definition: ‘a population, or group of populations, where there are no significant biological barriers to the relatively free exchange of genetic information’.

    It is interesting that modern humans, cultural prejudices aside, tend to be quite liberal in exchange of genetic material (I could have put that differently, but I thought that was more tactful ?) between populations of quite different appearance. I doubt that the appearance of Neandertals would have been so different as to counteract that.

  32. OKCurious responds:

    I have really enjoyed this chain. The various debates are highly cogent; however, before we begin to go beyond our current situation , wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until we have something with which to work? We can’t begin to make assumptions from a few unidentifiable hairs, scat and difficult to fake dermal ridges. Science requires evidence before categorization. You can’t categorize something you’ve never seen or observed closely. There have been many ‘answers’ to what these creatures are in the decades past, but unanchored conjectured theory is a pursuit better left to the media. After all, Biggie could just be sipping latte’s with Lindsay Lohan. Where would you put that on the chart?



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