Re: DISCOVER/Neanderthal/Homo Sap.

Gerrit Hanenburg (
Fri, 1 Sep 1995 20:34:28 GMT (Peggy Hall) wrote:

>I just picked up the new Discover Magazine. There is a question posed on
>the cover regarding Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens living side by side
>for so long: How could we live side by side for 50,000 years and never
>have sex ?

>What do you think ?

Traditionally Neanderthals and modern humans have been considered varieties
(subspecies) of the same species:Homo sapiens (H.sapiens neanderthalensis and
H.sapiens sapiens),which means that they were able (in principle) to
interbreed.But in fact they may not have been subspecies at all.
Instead they may have been full species unable to reproduce successfully with
each other for several reasons,so-called isolating mechanisms.
In general subspecies do not differ from each other in those parts that are
most likely to be preserved in the fossil record.The differences in
skeletal anatomy between Neanderthals and modern humans (e.g.Cro-Magnon)
are remarkable,in particular the skull.On this basis we have some reason to
belief that they were different species.
If they were indeed full species the most important isolating mechanism
between them may have been ethological isolation:the sexual attraction
between males and females was reduced or absent due to a mismatch in
behaviour or physiology.Ethological isolation is often the most powerfull
reproductive barrier between closely related species in the same geographical