Neanderthals wouldn't have eaten their sprouts either

Aug 12, 2009 by Denholm Barnetson
Visitors at the Museum for Prehistory in Eyzies-de-Tayac look at a reconstruction of a Neanderthal man. Spanish researchers say they have found that a gene in modern humans that makes some people dislike a bitter chemical called phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC, was also present in Neanderthals hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Spanish researchers say they're a step closer to resolving a "mystery of evolution" -- why some people like Brussels sprouts but others hate them.

They have found that a gene in modern humans that makes some people dislike a bitter chemical called phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC, was also present in Neanderthals hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The scientists made the discovery after recovering and sequencing a fragment of the TAS2R38 gene taken from 48,000-year-old Neanderthal bones found at a site in El Sidron, in northern Spain, they said in a report released Wednesday by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

"This indicates that variation in bitter taste perception predates the divergence of the lineages leading to Neanderthals and modern humans," they said.

Substances similar to PTC give a bitter taste to green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage as well as some fruits.

But they are also present in some poisonous plants, so having a distaste for it makes evolutionary sense.

"The sense of bitter taste protects us from ingesting toxic substances," the report said.

What intrigued the researchers most is that Neanderthals also possessed a recessive variant of the TAS2R38 gene which made some of them unable to taste PTC -- an inability they share with around one third of modern humans.

"This feature ... is a mystery of ," said the report.

"These (bitter) compounds can be toxic if ingested in large quantities and it is therefore difficult to understand the evolutionary existence of individuals who cannot detect them."

The report's lead author, Carles Lalueza Fox of the University of Barcelona, speculated that such people may be "able to detect some other compound not yet identified."

This would have given them some genetic advantage and explain the reason for the continuation of the variant gene.

Neanderthals and modern humans shared a common from which they diverged about 300,000 years ago.

Excavations since 2000 at the site at El Sidron, in the Asturias region, have so far recovered the skeletal remains of at least 10 Neanderthal individuals.

The squat, low-browed lived in parts of Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East for around 170,000 years but traces of them disappear some 28,000 years ago, their last known refuge being Gibraltar.

Why they died out is a matter of furious debate because they existed alongside modern man.

The CSIS research was published in the British Royal Society's Biology Letters.

(c) 2009 AFP

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Caliban
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 12, 2009
It would be interesting to see all the available data on this question. If it is true that modern humans and neanderthals were capable of interbreeding, then it would also be possible for the mutation to have occured in the neanderthal genome, and then to have been transferred to the genome of modern humans. All a matter of timing. How closely the facts of this research are represented by this article is, of course, a matter for debate in itself as -inevitably- some distortion is introduced in the abstraction process.
John_balls
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2009
Hmm.. my guess is that modern humans killed off the neanderthals. Becuase humans to this day like to kill people that don't look like them, come from a different tribe, different culture ,religion..etc. Just a theory (:
snivvy
not rated yet Aug 12, 2009
The real question here is would modern humans rather make babies with neanderthals or kill them? Knowing modern-modern humans, I'd bet the baby makers would dominate!
RHaston
3 / 5 (4) Aug 12, 2009
More specifically male primates: chimps, primitives, and humans are motivated to kill stange males and mate with strange females. Look at our symbolic alpha male - James Bond - killing and screwing around the globe.

The same evolutionary period gave birth to our conservative and liberal instinctual split: www.politicalspecies.com
wolfkeeper
5 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2009
As I understand it, the genetic evidence is that neanderthals and humans did not successfully interbreed. They've found genes in neanderthals that code for ginger hair that are not present in any human populations. If they had interbred you would have expected these genes to be in some humans.

The implication is that either they did not breed true (like a mule) or that they did not sucessfully breed at all.
paulthebassguy
not rated yet Aug 12, 2009
I would love to see them clone a Neanderthal. It would be so awesome to see what they're truly like.
DonR
5 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2009
Hmm.. my guess is that modern humans killed off the neanderthals. Becuase humans to this day like to kill people that don't look like them, come from a different tribe, different culture ,religion..etc. Just a theory (:


No, that's at best a hypothesis. If you're going to use the word theory on a science news site, at least use it in the correct context and not the layman one. :)
docknowledge
5 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2009
Caliban, it says the divergence to sensitivity predates the divergence between humans and Neanderthals, not that they interbred.

Anyhow, that some people are genetically indisposed to eat sprouts suggests that sprouts were never an important part of human diet. Otherwise all those poor people who don't like delicious little sprouts would be extinct.
John_balls
1 / 5 (1) Aug 13, 2009
Hmm.. my guess is that modern humans killed off the neanderthals. Becuase humans to this day like to kill people that don't look like them, come from a different tribe, different culture ,religion..etc. Just a theory (:




No, that's at best a hypothesis. If you're going to use the word theory on a science news site, at least use it in the correct context and not the layman one. :)

I stand corrected,thanks.
Ethelred
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 13, 2009
They've found genes in neanderthals that code for ginger hair that are not present in any human populations.


Then how would anyone know that it coded for ginger hair? Do you have a link?

Ethelred
Velanarris
not rated yet Aug 13, 2009
Hmm.. my guess is that modern humans killed off the neanderthals. Becuase humans to this day like to kill people that don't look like them, come from a different tribe, different culture ,religion..etc. Just a theory (:

Well that's not true. Human beings kill each other for resources. Most likely, when human and neanderthal's would have crossed paths there wasn't as great an amount of people, meaning more available resources.

Human beings cooperate more than they dissent. We have evidence that Neanderthals may be responsible for gifting humans the genes necessary for speech development. There's evidence of shared culture, and genetic merging. You really need to stop being so down on the human race. We're not as bad as you think.
Bonkers
not rated yet Aug 13, 2009
They've found genes in neanderthals that code for ginger hair that are not present in any human populations.

Are you suggesting that Ginger-haired people are not truly Human?
Velanarris
not rated yet Aug 13, 2009
Are you suggesting that Ginger-haired people are not truly Human?

I thought we had established that as fact a long time ago. (I kid, I kid.)

tk1
not rated yet Aug 15, 2009
In the article it said :

What intrigued the researchers most is that Neanderthals also possessed a recessive variant of the TAS2R38 gene which made some of them unable to taste PTC -- an inability they share with around one third of modern humans. "This feature ... is a mystery of evolution," said the report.

"These (bitter) compounds can be toxic if ingested in large quantities and it is therefore difficult to understand the evolutionary existence of individuals who cannot detect them."

The report's lead author, Carles Lalueza Fox of the University of Barcelona, speculated that such people may be "able to detect some other compound not yet identified."

This would have given them some genetic advantage and explain the reason for the continuation of the variant gene.

Wouldn't a simpler hypothesis be that Neanderthals and Humans lived or live in social groups and learn from what others in the group do. Therefore they are taught what foods to eat and would less likly to ingest the posionious plants?

In other words, a social explanation rather than a biological one.


Velanarris
not rated yet Aug 15, 2009
Would it not be more clear to determine that humans and neanderthals had developed the gene that allows for detection? Or perhaps we have become more resistant than prior incarnations to PTC and as such the gene was no longer necessary in all cases?
docknowledge
not rated yet Aug 15, 2009
Yah, Velanarris, the article is indulging in what Wikipedia would call "original research" -- i.e., unfounded speculation in Wikispeak.
cosmicelk
not rated yet Aug 15, 2009
I am ginger and proud to be descended from Neanderthals. They had much bigger brains.
Ethelred
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 16, 2009
I don't know what happened there. I can't even edit it. I only get the first link and the signature. I did NOT put the blockquote there. It looks like I may have discovered a secret weapon for the cognoscenti.

Etherled

Now to experiment:
[blockquote]
Is this part Quotable.
[/blockquote]

RayCherry
not rated yet Aug 16, 2009
Ethelred (the ginger haired?): for block quotes, replace the strings 'blockquote' with a simple 'q' in each case for your experiment above.

Good luck :-)
Ethelred
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 16, 2009
In case you haven't noticed I quote extensively. That post was more a product of lack of sleep than anything else.

And by the way the q must be lower case. Every once in a while I manage to use an uppercase Q an then it doesn't work.

What happened was I made a snarky post about Dr. Milford Wolpoff's similarity to a Neanderthal. Somehow the only part of the post that wasn't marked as a quote was the link at the top. I didn't put [/blockquote] in the post yet there it was at the bottom of the it after the signature. And when I tried to edit the mess all that would show up was the first and last lines. Never seen that before. So I was trying to get the same odd result intentionally in my edit. After sleeping some and waking up I still can't match the odd behavior of the original version.

Not a redhead. My brother does have a red beard. Well it was a rusty red but now it has more gray than red.

Ethelred
OckhamsRazor
not rated yet Aug 26, 2009
I am ginger and proud to be descended from Neanderthals. They had much bigger brains.


And brows :)

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