October 15, 2018 9:59 pm

Natalia Reagan Gets Down with Some Neanderthals and Ancient Human Hybrids.

“There’s probably something weird going on in this area,” says biological anthropologist Ryan Raaum on this episode of StarTalk All-Stars. And he’s probably right. This week, we take a look at humanoid hybrids as host Natalia Reagan sits down with first-time comic co-host Andrea Jones-Rooy, paleoanthropologist Shara Bailey, and the previously mentioned Ryan Raaum.

Back in August, the world learned of a fascinating discovery. In the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains in Russia, paleogeneticists discovered fragments of bone that revealed the first evidence of an ancient human-hybrid between Neanderthals and Denisovans. On this episode, Natalia discusses the significance of this find along with some other areas of “Neanderthal Nookie” as she likes to say.

Map showing the spread and evolution of Denisovans. Credit: John D. Croft via Wikimedia Commons.

Map showing the spread and evolution of Denisovans. Credit: John D. Croft at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Get the details on this discovery and how the scientists were able to make such a large discovery with small samples of bone. Learn how we use the DNA sample to show us the lineage of both Neanderthal and Denisovan. You’ll also find out more about “hybrid vigor”.

We investigate Neanderthals’ ability to adapt to warm and cold climates before their extinction, as well as how climate change impacted their demise. Ryan and Shara explain why the ancient DNA is more accessible than ever before. We find out the differences between the “lumper” and “splitter” camps on defining Neanderthal origins and Ryan tells us why he thinks it’s a boring argument to begin with.

You’ll learn about the oddities of the admixture between Neanderthals and Denisovans and why the find in the Denisova Cave was especially odd. You’ll also hear about the Rising Star expedition which lead to the discovery of Homo naledi.

All that, plus Natalia coaches us on how to take hair samples, and we learn – and get a demonstration of – what a Neanderthal’s voice might have sounded like.

Please join us tomorrow night for Humanoid Hybrids, with Natalia Reagan at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on our All-Stars channels on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. And if you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen

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