Humans are a notoriously friendly and benevolent species. Altruistic, good-natured, compassionate, caring—these are the characteristics which define Homo sapiens. Cooperation, not competition, is the hallmark of our species.
Cooperation always prevails, not only when one group of humans encounter a different group of humans, but also when humans encounter a non-human species. Not only are humans unselfish and generous, but they are infinitely clever, which has allowed them to dominate all life on Earth. All the other species, past and present, can only be grateful for the rise of their benevolent human overlords.
Perhaps this doesn't strike you as an accurate description of Homo sapiens. If not, you haven't been reading the latest news about Humans and Neanderthals.
DNA taken from a 40,000-year-old modern human jawbone from the cave Peștera cu Oase in Romania reveals that this man had a Neanderthal ancestor as recently as four to six generations back. (Svante Pääbo/Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
According to a new study published Monday in Nature, modern humans and Neanderthals may have been interbreeding in Europe as recently as 40,000 years ago.
We're all a little bit Neanderthal. That other species was human — we're all member of the genus Homo — but they didn't have the same physical characteristics as what we'd call a modern human.
Scientists are certain that our modern human ancestors interbred with Neanderthals, suggesting that the species didn't go extinct so much as blend in.
But pinpointing just when that interbreeding occurred is tricky.