We have all seen human evolution images and charts multiple times. The ancestor that comes right behind modern humans (homo sapiens) in the chart is Homo Neanderthalensis or simply Neanderthals.

This ancient ancestor was so similar to humans that they interbred. Assimilation into the modern human genome is one of the reasons for the extinction of Neanderthals. This means we all have a little part of Neanderthals in us. And if you think that little bit is very inconsequential, you are wrong.

Effect of neanderthal genes

Studies show that Neanderthals may have influenced risks for depression, heart attacks, nicotine addiction, obesity, and other health problems. Another Neanderthal gene variant increases blood clotting. Scientists are still exploring how the genetic legacy of Neanderthals continues to shape modern humans’ health.

It isn’t all bad

Psychiatric disorders, nicotine addiction, heart problems – It might sound like all our problems originate from that tiny amount of Neanderthal gene that we inherited, but it isn’t so. In fact, these very traits helped the homo sapiens survive.

Mood disorders like anxiety and depression acted as adaptive traits. Anxiety over animal attacks or where to find food actually helped our ancestors carry out tasks and be alert. Similar case with blood clotting too. Blood clotting helped heal wounds more quickly and prevented infections among ancient humans. However, in modern society, this brings other problems, including heart diseases and pregnancy complications.

But it has been found that these archaic genes boost immunity, which helps us fight against fungi, bacteria, and parasites.


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How Neanderthals lived

For the longest time scientists and anthropologists have considered Neanderthals to be very unsophisticated and tasteless among human ancestors. But in 2018, researchers found cave paintings and shell beads dated 65,000 years ago to the time of Neanderthals. This means Neanderthals were artists.

They had the same cognitive abilities as homo sapiens. It is fun to imagine a depressed neanderthal sitting inside a cave all day creating art; even though it may not be true from a scientific point of view.

Cave painting by Neanderthals, Spain

Neanderthals went extinct about 40,000 years ago. But they are still in our brains, exerting distinguishable effects on our behavioral patterns. And that makes this ancestor much more relatable and not a far-by entity. Making us all a tiny part in some bigger grander picture of human existence and survival.

And, next time, when you don’t feel like getting up from bed or going out you know who to blame.


Image Sources: Google images

Sources: Science, National Geographic, The Atlantic

Find the blogger: @truly_Vinaya

This Post Is Tagged Under: Neanderthals, Neanderthal genes, Homo Sapiens, Homo Neanderthalensis, Modern humans, Genes, Genetics, Depression, Anxiety, Addiction, Human evolution, Evolution, Biology, Anthropology, History, Human ancestors, Behavioural patterns, Art, Cave art, Cave painting


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