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Be careful whom you call a Neanderthal. You may be one yourself. Or at least you may have Neanderthal ancestors.
That's the conclusion of a study being released Thursday that examined DNA extracted from Neanderthal bones more than 35,000 years old.
More Than A Handshake?
There's little question that modern humans and Neanderthals bumped into each other once upon a time.
"The archaeological record shows they overlapped between about 30,000 and 80,000 years ago," says David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School.
There was some fossil evidence that they may have done more than shake hands in passing, but the initial genetic evidence suggested otherwise.
"And so the big open question was whether they exchanged genes during that time when they overlapped in the Middle East and in Europe," he says.
To find out whether the two human species interbred, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, launched an audacious effort to sequence all 3 billion letters of Neanderthal DNA. As hard as it may be to believe, fragments of DNA can survive in bones that are more than 30,000 years old. New techniques can sequence those fragments, and new software can line the fragments up.
The main strategy for finding whether modern humans and Neanderthals exchanged genes was to compare the Neanderthal DNA with DNA from modern humans — some whose ancestors had remained in Africa, and others who had migrated to Europe, Asia and the New World. If the Neanderthal DNA was more similar to the non-African DNA, it would indicate that Neanderthals contributed their genes after the first modern humans migrated out of Africa.
Reich says that's what they found.
"The non-African is more closely related to the Neanderthal," Reich says. "Quite definitely. Highly statistically significantly overwhelming evidence that they're more closely related on average to Neanderthals."
In other words, Reich and his Leipzig co-authors are totally sure that Neanderthal genes found their way into modern humans when the two species intersected. They report their findings in the journal Science.
"The simplest possible explanation is that it occurred once," Reich says. "But it very easily could have occurred on multiple occasions. Perhaps it's likely that it occurred on multiple occasions."
Reich says it's hard to pin down exactly how much DNA Neanderthals contributed to modern humans. Reich says it's hard to pin down exactly how much DNA Neanderthals contributed to modern humans. "We estimate about 1 to 4 percent of the genetic ancestry of non-Africans is from Neanderthals," he says.
Ex-Gay Leader's Male Escort: Actually, We Did Have Sex
Rachel Slajda | May 6, 2010, 2:40PM
The male escort who accompanied George Rekers, a leader of the ex-gay movement, on a European vacation now says the two did engage in sex acts.
The escort, dubbed "Lucien" by the Miami New Times, told the paper that Rekers paid him to provide daily massages, in the nude. The massages included Rekers' favorite move, Lucien said, which he dubbed "the long stroke."
"Rekers liked to be rubbed down there," he said. He originally said the two did not have sex.
Rekers, a Christian Right leader and Baptist minister, was on the founding board of the Family Research Council. He's also a member of the American College of Pediatricians, which believes homosexuality can be cured, and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. He's been paid tens of thousands of dollars by Florida and Arkansas to testify in favor of their bans on gay couples adoption children.
"It's a situation where he's going against homosexuality when he is a homosexual," Lucien told the New Times. The paper broke the story of their 10-day trip earlier this week. Rekers hired Lucien via the web site RentBoy.com (NSFW), an escort site. Rekers maintains that he hired the escort to simply help him lift heavy things during the trip, and has also reportedly said that he was trying to save him from his sinner's lifestyle.
Rekers, who has devoted much of his life to protecting children from homosexuality and other perceived sins, has two blogs on the subject: Professor George and Teen Sex Today.
He hasn't written on "Teen Sex," which is linked from his web site, since last year. Some excerpts:
On the dangers of porn:It all starts off with a quick glimpse of someone in a skimpy outfit, then leads to a night of online swimsuit photo viewing. However, this doesn't satisfy your sexual urge, so you venture on to soft-core porn images (and maybe a quick mpeg here and there). But yet you still crave more intense and explicit porn, which leads you to "stumble" upon hard-core porn sites. Eventually, the most explicit images do not satisfy you. You long for more and more extreme, however, it is never enough. You are hooked and keep coming back for more, whatever the cost.On a teenager who reportedly stabbed her older boyfriend for refusing sex:This news story raises a number of questions: Is it wise for a teen girl to pursue an unmarried sexual relationship with a man in his mid-30's? Why didn't she just leave him alone when he turned down her sexual advance? Would true "love" end up stabbing the person loved? Did she really want to "make love" or just have sexual gratification?
A board member of one of Rekers' groups, NARTH, told the Washington Post that he believes the "travel assistant" story.
Rekers "is a dear, kind man who has had poor health as he has aged and often finds it impossible [alone] to travel to professional conferences or meetings," he said.