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article imageNeanderthal were Chatty cavemen?

By Chris V. Thangham     Oct 18, 2007 in Environment
German Scientists claim that Neanderthals might have spoken just like humans do now; they found genes connected to talking behavior in Neanderthal’s DNA, which matches with the human's.
Neanderthals diverged from human species nearly 300,000 years ago but became extinct some 30,000 years ago after successfully living side by side with humans for a long period of time. They are our closest extinct relatives. Their remains were discovered about 150 years ago, which has helped the scientific community to understand more about their behaviors. They had many similar characteristics like the human, in hunting, making tools etc, but their speaking skills were considered either rudimentary or nothing at all just grunts and groans, which has become a fodder for comedy now.
But a study of their DNA by German scientists, showed a striking behavior in them, analysis of their bones collected from a cave in northern Spain, they had a gene, FOXP2, similar to the humans. This FOXP2 is the only gene that is considered to be influential in man’s speech and language skills. People with an abnormal copy of this gene showed speech and language problems.
This FOXP2 gene is found in many species from fish to alligators to songbirds. For example FOXP2 gene found in Chimpanzee differs from the human’s by just two amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The difference doesn’t allow the Chimpanzee to speak as freely as the humans.
Previously some research have been done how this FOXP2 gene has evolved over the years and have found man must have developed spoken skills fewer than 200,000 years ago. And the gene that they found in Neanderthals matches exactly with the Human’s. Thus, paleogeneticist Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, says that Neanderthals might also have spoken just like the early humans.
Krause said there might be other genes involved in talking behavior, but so far they have identified only the FOXP2 gene. Later if they find additional genes for speech behavior they can analyze those in Neanderthals as well.
Some speculated that Neanderthals might have had this gene by cross breeding with humans, but their Y chromosomes don’t match indicating that may not be the only source. Krause thinks the Neanderthals might have developed this FOXP2 gene independently and might have used languages to communicate with each other.
Krause and his colleagues detailed their findings online Oct. 18 in the journal Current Biology.
If this is true they should check the caves for writing patterns, maybe they might have left some evidence there. They might have also had a Shakespeare amidst them. Will the comedians change their behavior in making fun of Neanderthals after this?
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