May I be the first one...
... to welcome our new genetically modified tea-drinking speaking mouse overlords!
Neanderthals may have a reputation in popular culture as a lumbering, grunting people, but researchers have discovered that they did have a gene thought to play a key role in speech. Samples of DNA were retrieved from two Neanderthal fossils found in a cave in northern Spain. Careful examination revealed that the pair both had …
"Dr Paabo has grown a batch of lab mice whose FOXP2 genes have been replaced with the human version, and says that although their behaviour is unchanged "there seems to be a change in vocalisation. They squeak in a different way". The mice also have extra connections in their brains."
This is terrific news ! Once this bloke has sorted out the exact genes sequence, surely, he'll be able to work out a treatment for "her" being too talkative !
"...their being capable of speech doesn't prove that we would have been able to sit down with the "cavemen" and have a natter over a cup of tea (proving that our evolutionary cousins could speak is pretty much impossible, given the absence of contemporary sound recording equipment)"
Not so impossible. If anyone would care to send me a stamped addressed envelope plus £10, I can send them sample recordings of conversations held in presumably some sort of meeting, furthermore proving that Neanderthals have not died out and a small group disguised as computer programmers is still alive and well, thriving in an old building in Staffordshire.
<quote>The human version of this gene is different from the chimp version in two places, leading scientists to speculate that these changes are responsible for our ability to speak</quote>
It could alternatively be responsible for our inability to peel bananas with our feet, couldn't it? Has anyone checked those modified mice for opposable digits?
The line is
"I think so Brain, but me and pippy longstockings? I mean think what the children would look like!"
"I think so Brain but isnt that what they invented tube socks for?"
"I think so Brain but if we didnt have ears we'd look like Weasels!"
"I think so Brain but if they called them sad meals kids wouldn't buy them."
< proving that our evolutionary cousins could speak is pretty much impossible, given the absence of contemporary sound recording equipment
Well: a load of jokes, but no serious comments.
Consider the findings that the tool-making skills of the Neanderthals were not too inferior to those of homo sapiens of the same period and that Neanderthals buried their dead, with tributes of flowers thrown into the graves (totally unlike the behaviour of the present-day great apes, who leave their dead to rot where they fall, and move on).
The findings indicate a culture, and this is not possible without language. In particular, the burial of the dead indicates that the Neanderthals were capable of comprehending death, and thinking beyond it: a facility not possessed by any animal other than modern homo sapiens (i.e., us).
The more I hear about Neanderthals, the more I admire them.
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