DNA Has Identified the First Ever Neanderthal Family in History

Scientists have identified a Neanderthal family for the first time in modern history. A father and his teenage daughter, along with several other close relatives, have been found to live about 54,000 years ago. They lived in Siberian caves. Several scientists, along with the Nobel Prize Winner for Physiology and Medicine Svante Pääbo, participated in the discovery. The findings were published in Nature.

Where Did They Live?

A Neanderthal male

Thought to have lived between 350,000 and 40,000 years ago, Neanderthal species inhabited what’s today known as Europe and Asia. They’re believed to have become extinct about 40,000 years ago, about the same time as the emergence of Homo Sapiens on the European continent.

There are many hypotheses associated with the disappearance of the species. According to one of them, fragmentation and degradation of the Neanderthal natural habitat occurred way before the arrival of modern humans. This might have resulted in the decimation of the species and its eventual extinction.

What Neanderthal DNA Reveals

The discovered Neanderthal family is thought to have dwelled in caves in small communities. They’d travel through river valleys in search of horses, bison, and other species to hunt. The species is also known to have created and used tools.

A Neanderthal female

DNA found at the now-famous site gives scientists plenty of new insights into how the species actually lived. More precisely, the findings enable them to determine who migrated and how different communities interacted with each other. Researchers found incredibly little genetic diversity in the clean they studied. That suggests Neanderthal species would live in communities of up to 20 individuals.

A closer look at the DNA has revealed that women could have moved from one community to the other more often than men. The discovery was made by examining the mitochondrial DNA. That is the DNA mothers pass down to children. It was compared to the Y chromosome, passed by fathers.

In any case, the findings published in Nature are among the first of their kind. Still, we have yet many other aspects to discover about Neanderthals, their way of life, and their eventual extinction.