Neanderthal population estimate increases tenfold

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Some gene-based estimates put the Neanderthals’ effective population at a measly 1,000; others claim they hovered at a few thousand at most (one study, for example, calculated that there were effectively fewer than 3,500 females). Two hypotheses might account for these results: that the population was indeed that low, even at its peak, or that the population was perhaps larger but had been decreasing for a very long time. In either case, the Neanderthals were always on the decline; their extinction seemed to have been foretold from the beginning.

“If there were really only 1,000 Neanderthals in the whole world,” Rogers said, “it’s hard to believe there would be such a rich fossil record.” But genetic evidence is exactly what [anthropologist Alan] Rogers and his colleagues have now cited to support their claim that the Neanderthals effectively numbered in the tens of thousands. They made their argument in a study published [July] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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The increase in genetic diversity that Rogers and his colleagues found corresponds to a roughly tenfold increase in effective population size. Although there is no way of knowing how many more Neanderthal individuals that number may represent, it could go a long way toward meeting the estimates from the fossil data.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Genetics Spills Secrets From Neanderthals’ Lost History

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