Homo Sapiens

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Homo Sapiens

Postby Girl-With-A-Math-Fetish » Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:09 am UTC

At one point, there would have to be a line where we differentiate between Homo Sapiens with Neanderthals and the like. Did the Homo Sapiens gene arise in several locations? Because unless a lot of inbreeding was going on in the species, wouldn't the Neanderthals have flushed out the Homo Sapiens gene? They were, after all, the stronger and smarter species. I'm not sure if I'm saying this correctly or not--essentially what I'm trying to ask is why Homo Sapiens didn't die out when Neanderthals were a superior species. Somewhat. Also, hi. I didn't realize XKCD had a forum. I'm just some girl extremely interested in topology and fractals and stuff. Does this forum have an IRC?

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:25 pm UTC

Initially there were just different subpopulations of the same species, as all speciation events are.

As to why we survived and Neanderthals didn't, I suspect sheer dumb luck had as much to do with it as anything else. People believed for a long time that our "ascension" was all but inevitable due to our being smarter or faster or whatever, but increasingly the evidence shows Neanderthals had a lot of the same characteristics we thought made us superior.
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby Sizik » Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:44 pm UTC

Girl-With-A-Math-Fetish wrote:Does this forum have an IRC?


There's an #xkcd channel on irc.foonetic.net.
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon Jun 30, 2014 1:27 pm UTC

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby p1t1o » Tue Jul 01, 2014 1:50 pm UTC

Did I read somewhere that there were times&places where homo sapiens and neanderthals coexisted and even interbred?

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby Whizbang » Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:15 pm UTC

If this is off topic, just delete it, please.

I just read "The Wolf Gift" by Anne Rice. In it Anne Rice (using the characters) tried to rationalize that there was some species of hominid that somehow developed the ability to transform into a wolf-like hominid in times of danger. Fine, paranormal handwavium. I get it. But what got me was that the characters went out of their way to explain that it was evolution, not divine intervention. That somehow the species had developed the ability to use the latent stem cells in the body to transform... and then revert back to stem cells. Anyway, good book, but very frustrating that the concepts of stem cells and evolution were just mashed together like that. I got the distinct impression that the author was religious but trying to argue as if she were an athiest, and got everything bass-ackwards. It just reminded me so much of internet arguments that it put me off the ending of the book. And then explained that this ability was not used/useful for hunting or gathering food, and that the species lacked an aggressive nature and so was easily wiped out by humans. How can a species that can take on augmented wolf attributes not be aggressive and out survive humans (in a direct conflict)?

Anyway, back on topic. How many species in the homo genus were there? The Wikipedia article gives a list, but I don't have the background to really understand the classifications and such. Were they all separate branches, or were some stepping stones for other species? How do they differentiate between sapiens and other species? It seems odd and sad that sapiens are the only living species of the homo genus. I'd like to think that we (sapiens) have mixtures of the other species in our collective genes, like we do with neanderthals. Though, with the Toba catastrophe, I guess it is too much to hope that, if much interbreeding had occurred, that any of the genes survived.
Last edited by Whizbang on Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:28 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby p1t1o » Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:22 pm UTC

It doesn't help much that there is no discrete dividing line between species. When a "new species" is discovered it is usually a case of "Hmmm this seems sufficiently different, lets call it something else."

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:25 pm UTC

That's funny you should say that about Anne Rice; she became born again, and heavily denounced her vampire Lestat books for like... a decade? And then got over it and dedenounced them.

But yeah, it's annoying when authors are like 'magical demons! Also stem cells and physics!'

Whizbang wrote:Anyway, back on topic. How many species in the homo genus were there? The Wikipedia article gives a list, but I don't have the background to really understand the classifications and such. Were they all separate branches, or were some stepping stones for other species? How do they differentiate between sapiens and other species? It seems odd and sad that sapiens are the only living species of the homo genus. I'd like to think that we (sapiens) have mixtures of the other species in our collective genes, like we do with neanderthals. Though, with the Toba catastrophe, I guess it is too much to hope that, if much interbreeding had occurred, that any of the genes survived.
Too bad the wiki doesn't include a cladogram. I'm not an anthropologist, so I'm not sure how up to date or legit this is, but I think it'll at least give you an idea, as it seems to match up with a handful of others I see around.

As for how they differentiate, I imagine it has to do with the time they were thought to exist and major morphological features. We obviously have no concrete way of determining who was interbreeding, but there is evidence of Neaderthal genetic material in at least a handful of populations of Homo sapeins. Since prevailing theory suggests that Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis were interbreeding, I think the speciation definition is perhaps somewhat fuzzy?

p1t1o wrote:It doesn't help much that there is no discrete dividing line between species. When a "new species" is discovered it is usually a case of "Hmmm this seems sufficiently different, lets call it something else."
That's not... entirely accurate. But yes, species can be fuzzily defined.
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby ahammel » Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:29 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:Anyway, back on topic. How many species in the homo genus were there?
It depends on whether your anthropologist is a lumper or a splitter, basically. Palaeo-species concepts are tricky. The only reason that there's anything like sharp lines between species is that all the ancestors are dead.
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby p1t1o » Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:50 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
p1t1o wrote:It doesn't help much that there is no discrete dividing line between species. When a "new species" is discovered it is usually a case of "Hmmm this seems sufficiently different, lets call it something else."
That's not... entirely accurate. But yes, species can be fuzzily defined.


Well point being, to be entirely accurate my post would have had to be significantly longer - I'm sure some actual intelligent thought goes into it :D

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby peregrine_crow » Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:41 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
p1t1o wrote:It doesn't help much that there is no discrete dividing line between species. When a "new species" is discovered it is usually a case of "Hmmm this seems sufficiently different, lets call it something else."
That's not... entirely accurate. But yes, species can be fuzzily defined.


I used to have this nice and clear definition of species: If it interbreeds it is the same species. Then someone pointed out that this makes the operator 'is-the-same-species-as' non-transitive :( .

Izawwlgood wrote:But yeah, it's annoying when authors are like 'magical demons! Also stem cells and physics!'


Depends on the implementation. I quite like the "one big lie" approach to fantasy physics: There is one thing in which the fictional world can differ from the real world, everything else is business as usual. Helps with the suspension of disbelief.
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jul 01, 2014 6:06 pm UTC

p1t1o wrote:Did I read somewhere that there were times&places where homo sapiens and neanderthals coexisted and even interbred?
Yes, I'm pretty sure that is indeed the case.
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby tomandlu » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:31 am UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:Depends on the implementation. I quite like the "one big lie" approach to fantasy physics: There is one thing in which the fictional world can differ from the real world, everything else is business as usual. Helps with the suspension of disbelief.


That's pretty much my feeling. I've been thinking it might be fun to write something set in a Lamarkian universe...
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Jul 02, 2014 2:21 pm UTC

Yeah, the idea is that the soon-to-be Neanderthalis part of the population migrated to Europe and specialized there, becoming thicker-built and meat-centric and so on, and then another wave with different quirks followed them, joined the existing population, and bred them out. So they were isolated populations for some time and can be treated as separate species, but ultimately, the Neanderthal line was just absorbed back into another section of the population it'd been isolated from.

On the "One Big Lie," I think that's necessary in stiffer sci-fi, yeah. I do think it's reasonable to have works where the "one big lie" is actually something in the style of the universe, and it's possible to play a little more loosely with how the universe of the story world works. But yes, please, be aware of what you're doing as a writer and don't tell me you're doing something else....
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby tomandlu » Wed Jul 02, 2014 4:36 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:On the "One Big Lie," I think that's necessary in stiffer sci-fi, yeah. I do think it's reasonable to have works where the "one big lie" is actually something in the style of the universe, and it's possible to play a little more loosely with how the universe of the story world works. But yes, please, be aware of what you're doing as a writer and don't tell me you're doing something else....


Straying into sci-fi here, but, yeah. I feel there are two forms of the valid lie.

1. You need this thing (FTL, anti-grav, time-travel, whatever), but it breaks a fundamental law, so you conjure up some plotonium. BUT (and this is the important part) you acknowledge that that's what you're doing (i.e. you don't just get to pretend the law of conservation of momentum doesn't exist).

2. You want to do this one cool thing, and the point of it is that you are wanting to play what-if. The idea of writing a story set in a Lamarkian-based universe would be one.

I would say on the latter that you are not required to offer any explanation (although you can if you want).
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:24 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:The idea of writing a story set in a Lamarkian-based universe would be one.
FWIW, I think this would be awesome, and particularly cool to incorporate into family heritages. The Millers, man, those guys are fucking burly!
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby gladiolas » Thu Oct 09, 2014 9:57 pm UTC

I think Greg Bear or Greg Benford wrote something with a planet where Lamarck's ideas worked.

There are indications of interbreeding among H. sapiens, Neanderthals, Denisovans, Erectus...I wonder how this fits in with the xenophobia common among traditional groups living in isolated areas...(I'm avoiding use of phrases like "jungle tribes"...)

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby PM 2Ring » Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:14 am UTC

gladiolas wrote:I think Greg Bear or Greg Benford wrote something with a planet where Lamarck's ideas worked.


I think you're thinking of Greg Bear's Legacy

In the third book [of The Way trilogy] (a prequel, set in the time before Eon), Legacy, soldier Olmy ap Sennon is sent to spy on a group of dissidents who have used the spacetime tunnel of "the Way" (introduced in Eon) to colonize the alien world of Lamarckia, a planet with an ecosystem that learns from its changed environment in a way that resembles Lamarckian evolution.
Spoiler:
Its plants and animals turn out to actually be parts of continent-sized organisms.

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby elasto » Fri Oct 10, 2014 8:24 am UTC

Stephen Baxter's "Manifold: Origin" book deals with alternate timelines where various different hominids to homo sapiens are the ones to prevail.

It's my least favorite book from the Manifold series but the others are amongst my favorites of all time - mostly for how amazing the endings are.

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Oct 10, 2014 11:32 am UTC

gladiolas wrote:I think Greg Bear or Greg Benford wrote something with a planet where Lamarck's ideas worked.

There are indications of interbreeding among H. sapiens, Neanderthals, Denisovans, Erectus...I wonder how this fits in with the xenophobia common among traditional groups living in isolated areas...(I'm avoiding use of phrases like "jungle tribes"...)

Pretty sure you'd be okay with "isolated tribes in rainforest areas, etc." The word "jungle" is straight-up deprecated.
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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby Frenetic Pony » Sat Oct 11, 2014 11:08 am UTC

elasto wrote:Stephen Baxter's "Manifold: Origin" book deals with alternate timelines where various different hominids to homo sapiens are the ones to prevail.

It's my least favorite book from the Manifold series but the others are amongst my favorites of all time - mostly for how amazing the endings are.


This is actually similar to how I'd one to do a fantasy style book at some point. Elves and watnot are appealing concepts, but moving beyond Tolkien is something far overdue. I loved The Hobbit because it was original to me, back when I read it at the age of 13. Since then I discovered of course that everyone and their mother decided Tolkien's elves, dwarves, and pseudo medieval/nordic setting was the only thing you could ever do.

So in trying to come up with something I thought, hey why not just ask myself what other hominids could evolve into? The same idea as a dwarf/elf/halfing type thing, a different species of humanoid that's still closely relateable to the reader. But not the same tropes over and over again. It's a fun thought experiment so far, probably someday soonish it'll turn into something :mrgreen:

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Re: Homo Sapiens

Postby Angua » Sat Oct 11, 2014 11:26 am UTC

The Long Earth series (Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett) have something similar.
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