Neanderthal and Denisovan Genes – and Covid-19

The media reported last week that genes from Neanderthals protect many of us against severe Covid-19. Those genes actually come from Denisovans too: another early human species. Unfortunately, a different set of Neanderthal genes increases our chances of serious Covid. This post goes behind the news and looks at our connection to these two prehistoric creatures, as well as their genes’ impact on Covid risk. It also looks at those genes’ frequency among modern ethnic groups.

Neanderthal woman
Neanderthal woman (from the Neanderthal Museum)

Continue reading “Neanderthal and Denisovan Genes – and Covid-19”

Black Europeans, Short Spaniards, Tall Swedes, Milk, and Recent Human Evolution

During the past year, genetic studies have revealed some surprises about European prehistory. One study in particular analyzed DNA from 230 skeletons, dating from 6600 B.C. to around 300 B.C. It tells us that Europeans evolved many familiar traits far more recently than we’d thought. Continue reading “Black Europeans, Short Spaniards, Tall Swedes, Milk, and Recent Human Evolution”

Were We Just Bystanders in Dog Domestication?

This post has been updated. See, Who Thought Up Dog Domestication, People or Dogs?

Scientists used to think prehistoric hunter-gatherers created the dog by adopting wolf pups and breeding the friendliest of them, for centuries or longer. A more recent theory, however, suggests that humans served as little more than bystanders in dog domestication. The transformation from wolves was already complete, the theory goes, before the first dog-owners adopted their pets. Continue reading “Were We Just Bystanders in Dog Domestication?”