The Family Tree…or Shrubbery

A new and interesting article is making the rounds following a publication appearing in the journal Nature on Thursday. Discovery has a summary of it, in case you don’t have access to Nature.

The short version is that two types of humans which they assumed to have an ancestor-descendant relationship actually coexisted. Oops?

I enjoy genealogy and family history research, despite the fact that I have yet to link myself with any of the royal families of Europe. One branch either got thrown out of Scotland or Ireland (it’s not really clear and there’s people of that name in both countries), one branch had a nice large family farm in a totally different state of Germany than my grandmother spent years telling us, and we MIGHT be related to landowners near the German/French border but as we’ve been unable to trace the name past Revolutionary War discharge papers, we’re assuming something got changed or written down incorrectly. Kind of pales in comparison to a family I know with a direct line to Russian nobility (not the Romanovs but part of the royal court) and another friend who can trace to a wife of Henry VIII and a noble who has a small state on the east coast named for him.

But as we wander back up the family archives there’s some interesting history and if I chose to make the jump further back, I can now wonder about the inter-species mating of homo habilis and homo erectus. (Is that right? Are they considered different species?) I wonder if there would be a way to extract DNA or some kind of genetic material from the skeletons they’ve found and figure out any descendants. I wonder similar things about neanderthals–they say they died out but then they show you these “recreations” based on skulls and skeletons they’ve found. I don’t know about you but I’ve seen people, modern people, who have a really really similar appearance. (And no, I’m not talking about Geico commercials) I like how they put it in the Discovery article “our family tree is more like a wayward bush with stubby branches.”

It’s nice to know not everything in anthropology has been answered. Still a little genealogy work to do…

Here’s to the family shrubbery…