Category Archives: human biology

“Modern” Homo sapiens may have been in Eurasia as long as 210,000 years ago

The conventional wisdom about the migration of Homo out of Africa, where the genus originated, involves the spread of Homo erectus about 2 million years ago across Eurasia, with that species appearing to have gone extinct without issue. After that, the Neanderthals, which split from the lineage producing “modern” (i.e., living) H. sapiens about 800,000 […]

You have mites on your face

As you sit there reading this, thousands of mites are living on your face, burrowed into the follicles of your facial hair and the pores around your eyes, nose, and mouth. As the NPR article below shows (click on second screenshot), every human is colonized by “eyelash mites”, members of the subphylum Chelicerata—yes, relatives of […]

How do we know that Neanderthals were nearly all right-handed?

A while back I wrote about my visit to the Croatia Natural History Museum, where curator Dr. Davorka Radovčić kindly gave three of us a several-hour look at Neanderthal bones from the nearby location of Krapina, one of the most fruitful Neanderthal sites known. At the time I mentioned there was evidence that most Neanderthals were right-handed, […]

Neanderthal bones in Croatia

Note: This has been slightly updated after I ran it by Davorka, who caught a few errors. Over the years we’ve had a number of posts about Neanderthals and their genetic legacy in “modern humans” (see here for a collection), many of them written by Matthew Cobb. Croatia—in particular a hill near the small town […]

Geneticist David Reich responds to critics of his views on race

On March 23, I called your attention to paleoanthropologist David Reich’s op-ed in the New York Times, “How genetics is changing our understanding of ‘race’.” I thought the article was quite good, one of the few articles that takes a pretty objective and open-minded stand on “race”. It noted that conventionally named races are social […]

Finally: a sensible discussion of “race”

And by “sensible,” of course, I mean a discussion that aligns with my own views. I’ve often written that while there are no finite and strongly genetically demarcated human “races”, there are meaningful and statistically diagnostic differences between populations, ethnic groups, or whatever you want to call them. This is in opposition to the common […]

A human chimera

Reader Tom Alves called my attention to the singer Taylor Muhl, a human chimera. Chimerism is the situation in which an individual results from the fusion of two early-stage fertilized eggs (zygotes), and thus has the genetic constitution of two separate individuals. This is a very rare condition: geneticists estimate that there are fewer than […]

In an article on race and medicine, New York Times does its best to ignore and denigrate race

Furthering my claim that the New York Times is becoming more regressive in its Leftism, we have a long article in the science section on race and medicine. The thing is, the author of the piece does his very best to pretend that there’s no such thing as “race”, even while investigating—and buttressing, to some […]

A lovely graph that tells our story

by Matthew Cobb I came across this beautiful graph in an article in the journal Cell this week. It shows declining levels of genetic variability among 51 populations of humans across the planet, plotted against the distance of each population from East Africa: The data in the figure are from a 2008 paper in Science […]

Researcher: Human sense of smell better than everyone thinks; may rival that of dogs!

John P. McGann of the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University has spent fourteen years looking at the olfactory (smelling) system of mammals, and has published a new paper in Science suggesting that what we think we know about our own sniffing ability, compared to the reputed Super Sniffers of dogs and rodents, is wrong. McGann suggests, […]