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Sep27-08, 08:28 PM
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Both nuclear and mtDNA findings are inconclusive..... so far.

Problems with the Attribution of Neanderthal?

Paleontologist Fred H. Smith (Loyola University), who in the 1980s and 90s participated in the morphological analysis of the materials from Vindija Cave, believes that this bone is likely Neanderthal, although the morphological characteristics were not necessarily clear-cut, and given the error margin in the dates, it could represent Anatomically Modern Human remains. When asked for a comment about this question, Dr. Pbo spoke of his confidence that the bone is Neanderthal or at most mixed modern human and Neanderthal. "As Fred says, the morphology of the bone itself does not identify this as a Neandertal. But as Fred also says, the G3 layer in Vindija is commonly accepted to be Neandertal and 38,000 is old to be modern human in the Balkans. Also, the mtDNA sequences we find in the bone are typical Neandertal. So at the most, it could be a mixture, it could not be purely modern human. As we go on with the project, we will find out if there is evidence for interbreeding with modern humans in this individual."

And in response to the "donkey mating with a horse" comparison to cro-magnon and neanderthals mating... there is no comparison.

There have been claims both that Neanderthals assimilated with modern human beings and that they did not assimilate.
It is possible that the Neanderthals, with their small numbers, could have been absorbed by the much larger populations of modern Homo sapiens. In November 2006, a paper was published in the United States journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which a team of European researchers suggest that Neanderthals and humans interbred, citing distinct human and Neanderthal features in a 30,000 year-old fossil found in Romania. [b]Co-author Erik Trinkaus from Washington University explains, "Closely related species of mammals freely interbreed, produce fertile viable offspring and blend populations. Extinction through absorption is a common phenomenon" (Hayes 2006)

Assimilation is difficult to prove as genetic differences between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons were far more minute than the morphological differences between the two species might seem to indicate. Tests comparing Neanderthal and modern human mitochondrial DNA show some dissimilarity.

According to genetic studies, Neanderthals and modern humans diverged genetically 500,000 to 600,000 years ago, suggesting that, though they may have lived at the same time, Neanderthals did not contribute genetic material to modern humans (Krings et. al. 1997). Subsequent investigation of a second source of Neanderthal DNA supported these findings.
Two samples hardly warrant any conclusion.

Most researchers adhere to a view that has the European Neanderthals either interbreeding and being absorbed or having been marginalized by invading Homo sapiens until they died out, leaving no genetic legacy (Kreger 2005). ......"whether they left a large heritage in modern humans or an insignificant one is a question that might not be answered satisfactorily for a long time."