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Evolution/neandertthals and homo sapiens


If homo neanderthalensis and homo sapiens could copulate and produce non sterile offspring, which we now know they did from DNA results, doesn't this mean they are of the same species? Homo sapiens? Neanderthals as a separate species no longer exist?

Dear Charles,

People still argue over the definition of species.  But if you are using a strict interpretation of the biological species concept, then YES, I agree.  At some point, both "species" were classified as Homo sapiens.  Our lineage was Homo sapiens sapiens, and the Neanderthal lineage was Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.  

Somewhere along the line, that got changed.  I don't know what criteria were used to make that change.

But if it's any consolation, they've finally fixed that paraphyletic group, Hominidae, which included only humans.  Now it includes all the descendants of the ancestor that gave rise to Homo sapiens and our two closest cousins, Pan paniscus and Pan troglodytes.




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Dana Krempels


I can answer questions about evolutionary mechanisms and theory, including genetic drift, mutation, natural selection, etc. I also can clear up misconceptions about evolution as it's sometimes talked about by those not well-versed in the subject (e.g., some politicians and many religious fundamentalists).


I have a Ph.D. in Biology, and presently teach Evolution and Biodiversity, Genetics, Botany, and Zoology at the University of Miami.

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