back to article Neanderthals had key speech gene, researchers say

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 …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    May I be the first one...

    ... to welcome our new genetically modified tea-drinking speaking mouse overlords!

  2. Richard
    Coat

    Keynote Speech gene

    Slightly misreading the headline, I suddenly thought that this explains Party Conferences...

  3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Proof

    "proving that our evolutionary cousins could speak is pretty much impossible, given the absence of contemporary sound recording equipment"

    Indeed. It is exactly as difficult as proving that our *ancestors* could speak at that time.

  4. regadpellagru
    Gates Horns

    Yes !

    "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 !

  5. Mountford D

    Neanderthals are not extinct

    "...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.

  6. Lloyd
    Coat

    Of course they can talk

    How else would they have signed us up for the new EU constitution without a referendum?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    So all DNA tests can be contaminated?

    "Critics of the work have suggested it could have been contaminated by human DNA"

    Maybe those critics would also like to challenge every guilty verdict based on DNA.

  8. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Boffin

    Costa Eureka DNA Strain?

    Probably an early embedded dDutch Netherland thing, Senor.

  9. Ted Treen
    Gates Horns

    Incontrovertible

    For definitive evidence of this, please see any of the many videos showing one S. Ballmer at any M$ gathering...

  10. E

    Mice

    Could the Dr. make some talking mice with tiny little five fingered hands please?

  11. Luther Blissett

    Maligning the Neanderthals

    Is incorrect, and rests on (a) anthropcentric prejudice, (b) nostalgia for Victorian prurity, (c) 'The Inheritors' by Wm Golding. Would you rather have a hippy or a neanderthal for a son-in-law?

  12. Captain DaFt
    Coat

    Mice with genetically enhanced speech?

    Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?

  13. Ian Damage

    @CaptainDaft

    Yes, but me and Pippi Longstockings? It'll never work.

  14. Jonathan Richards
    Stop

    Leap of logic

    <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?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    @Jonathan

    Nope, I just checked that one now. Not only did I peel a banana with my feet I managed to get a good amount into my mouth.

    Chimps 0 : Humans 1

  16. Steven Davison

    Brain

    What are we going to do tonight, Brain?

  17. Tyson Boellstorff
    Coat

    @Steven Davison

    Same thing we do every night, Pinky.

    Try to take over the world!

  18. Big Al
    Boffin

    They aren't part of MY family!

    @ Ken Hagan

    There is some debate as to whether Neanderthals are really our ancestors - or are actually more like cousins, sharing some more distant forebears. Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis and Homo Sapiens Sapiens....

  19. lglethal Silver badge
    Joke

    @ Ian Damage

    The line is

    "I think so Brain, but me and pippy longstockings? I mean think what the children would look like!"

    Other favourites

    "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."

  20. Peter Mellor

    Title

    < 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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