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Journal Article

Right for the Wrong Reasons: Reflections on Modern Human Origins in the Post-Neanderthal Genome Era

Trenton W. Holliday, Joanna R. Gautney and Lukáš Friedl
Current Anthropology
Vol. 55, No. 6 (December 2014), pp. 696-724
DOI: 10.1086/679068
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/679068
Page Count: 29
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Right for the Wrong Reasons
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Abstract

The sequencing of the Neanderthal genome answered once and for all the question of whether these hominins played a role in the origins of modern humans—they did, and a majority of humans alive today retain a small portion of Neanderthal genes. This finding rejects the strictest versions of the Recent African Origin model and has been celebrated by supporters of Multiregional Evolution (MRE). However, we argue that MRE can also be rejected and that other, intermediate, models of modern human origins better represent the means by which modern humans became the only extant human species. We argue this because we reject one of the major tenets of MRE: global gene flow that prevents cladogenesis from occurring. First, using reconstructions of Pleistocene hominin census size, we maintain that populations were neither large nor dense enough to result in such high levels of gene flow across the Old World. Second, we use mammalian divergence and hybridization data to show that the emergence of Homo is recent enough that member species of this genus were unlikely to have been reproductively isolated from each other, even in the absence of the high levels of global gene flow postulated by MRE supporters.

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