Estimated reading time: 9 mins (1906 words)
So, you may have heard that a paper was recently published on the genome of a girl who lived around 90,000 years ago and was half-Neanderthal and half-Denisovan.
Cohen, Cohen, Cohen, Cohen, Cohen, Cohen, MY MOM WAS A NEANDERTHAL AND MY DAD WAS A DENISOVAN pic.twitter.com/rBsuFBQEBJ — Carl Zimmer (@carlzimmer) August 22, 2018 It kinda made the news…
Lots of people were excited, not just geneticists and researchers working with human fossils. And my favorite thing about a science story going viral is that it brings out the comedy gold:
I'm picturing a 13 year old starting secondary school and telling her new friends: "me mam's a neanderthal, dad's a denisovan, bit of a nasty shock for him when he found out." https://t.co/I4fGRZEmO2 — Aoife Hardesty (@aoife_hardesty) August 27, 2018 Do me like you're a neanderthal woman and I'm a denisovan man. — Bʀɪᴀɴɪᴀᴄ® (@BGH70) August 24, 2018 To be fair, even Nature’s story on this publication was feeling cheeky:
But the ultimate tweets were without a doubt the Monty Python references:
This is actually fascinating stuff, but I can't read "Her mother was a Neanderthal, and her father was a Denisovan" without hearing John Cleese's French taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. https://t.co/AfthERMhSD — Jon Hancock (@BigJackBrass) August 23, 2018 The Neanderthal-Denisovan ancient mashup makes me think of this. pic.twitter.com/iGTqFFCCWZ — Sarah Parcak (@indyfromspace) August 22, 2018 And while the news articles that ran on this story gave a good overview of why researchers were excited about it, without the historical context of how we’ve understood human evolution until now, it can be really hard to understand just how incredible this discovery is.
So let’s back up a little bit…