Homo sapien as subspecies?

I am not a geneticist by any means. Never even taken a single course on it. While reading various things on human evolution at times it seems to be hinting that we are currently could be broken up into at least three subspecies.

  1. Homo sapien “Sapien” ( Africans )
  2. Homo sapien “Neanderthalensis“ ( Europeans )
  3. Homo sapien “Denisova” ( Asians )

Every now and then i come across things talking about one reason why Europeans, Africans, and Asians look different goes back to various mixing of human species that are now extinct. But I also seen it being refuted because it was linked to various racist propaganda. So it made me wonder, if Europeans have 3-4% DNA , or whatever the number is, does that make them “ me as I am white and don’t want the term them to be confused for like ewww “ a subspecies? It does not really matter to me. Not having any kind of ancestry crisis just in general curious because I’ve heard things also about white people are a byproduct of ancient Africans and albinism and so on. But never see any really good books or articles that touch on this particular issue. It’s just mentioned about the dna, and then glossed over and sometimes some people go more in depth on it, but often those people seem to unfortunately be racist.

Just curious about the evolution of what drove the distinct differences within some humans or is it just a byproduct of ancient tribal breeding and the dna from other human species plays no role.

Hope I explained it well enough.

A minefield for discussion, but one article that may be helpful in understanding is here:

If you skip to the conclusion, basically it states that humans are such a homogenous group, that the amount of diversity is not enough to say that there are different races or sub-species. Race as we know it is purely a social construct.

3 Likes

I’ll definitely try to read it tomorrow. Barely awake atm. I’ve heard the discussion before about race being a social construct and just never seem to be able to by into that. I feel that for the most part you can tell when someone is black or someone is white. That genetic aspect , skin tone and features, just seem to exist. Saw a counter argument once where they got people and altered just their skin tone to another race and it was still obvious based on overall features who was white, black, asian, and so on. Like when I see donald trump, I’m not seconding guessing that hes white and wondering if maybe he’s a black guy, maybe he’s a japanese guy, and ect… it’s plain. European descent. My fiancée is chinese and pinay. Anyone can see her and tells she’s clearly of asian descent and not just because of social construct.

This is incorrect.

Homo Sapiens, Neanderthal, and Denisovan are indeed three different subspecies. But Africans, Europeans and Asians are all Homo Sapiens, the same subspecies. You cannot even say that Africans represent the pure homo sapiens subspecies since Neanderthal DNA is found in them also. The most you can say is that Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA are present in the different ethnic groups of modern homo sapiens subspecies to varying degrees.

The recent discovery is that in the past the percentage of Neanderthal DNA in some areas or individuals was higher than expected and that natural selection has been reducing the percentage – telling us us that the interbreeding between the subspecies was greater than originally thought. Or an alternate suggestion, I might make, is that continued waves of homo sapiens migrations has continued to dilute the Neanderthal and Denisovan portions in outlying populations more and more. Perhaps the principle survival advantage from the homo sapiens subspecies was (for whatever reason) simply that of greater population growth.

Within the the plant community a subspecies is a species that is the same but with distinct differences that are carried on.

The Neanderthals were not a subspecies or Homo sapiens. They were a entirely different species with the homo genus.

The way I wrote out the binomial name shows that I’m talking strictly about Homo sapiens and that one species only and then asking within this one species, is the clear physical differences that carry on from generation to generation caused by amounts of the other species dna. Does not matter if every race contains trace amounts when every race contains different levels of the trace amounts and have distinct features.

So are the typical physical appearance to Europeans ( and what we typically call white ) caused by the levels of other species dna or is it caused by albinism? If the Neanderthal species plays no part in it, then is it just by chance that neanderthals were found primarily in the more northern ranges where we could expect lighter skin to have developed? Or maybe albinos traveled further north to get to colder climates and were taken in by neanderthals?

The physical differences in skin tones, hair, and ect are not just social constructs but genetic obviously. So what’s the drive for these clear genetic differences and why does it seem to correlate with the dna differences concerning other species that are now extinct?

1 Like

I’ve not read the actual study, and blogs and headliners often seem to write in biased or hyperbolic interpretations but still for the most part it always seems to show that Europeans and Asians have the most Neanderthal gene pool, and that Asians typically has a little bit more and that they also have the highest amount of Denisovan dna.

The only humans left alive now are us. ( I think once I read maybe select tribes of people may have higher trace amounts of other species now extinct as well). So we are all Homo sapiens and that’s why I typed the names the way I did and then marked out the different cross dna from now extinct humans. Only thing I did it do, is do “Neanderthal x Denisovans“ for Asians because I figured highlighting the Denisovans aspect would be enough and is the main difference in genetics between Europeans. If Neanderthals were still alive, we probably would not refer to ourselves as human but sapiens but since they are extinct, and we are the only species left in the human genus we just call ourselves human .

You can also tell if somebody has blue eyes or brown eyes. So are those two different races of people? You can tell if somebody has blond hair or red hair, if somebody is short or tall, etc. So are those all different races of people then? Saying that race is a social construct isn’t a claim that we can’t observe differences (even genetic differences) among people. It’s a claim that the attempted division or categorization of people into different groupings or some sort of thing like that is practiced only for social or demographic or medical (or often unfortunately for racist) reasons - not because there is any genetic warrant for differentiating peoples from each other. So it is entirely a social construct. If there was a long history of discriminating against short adults and privileging tall ones, then you can bet that “heightism” would be a thing right now, and yes - it would be 100% social construct, just like different skin tones currently are.

1 Like

It’s phenotype, not a genotype though.

To be honest I feel that’s a bit silly. We use race to refer to the general physical characteristics of other human beings and we use terms like ethnicity and race to categorize it. It’s not evil, and it’s completely rational. It’s not based on nothingness but actual physical differences. As for how people misuse it, not my issue. It also seems like it is tied into genetics. Social constructs are things like determining if what’s breakfast food vs dinner food and so on. Picking up on very obvious physical differences is not social constructs. It’s picking up on literal, easy to see differences.

Not to be rude, I won’t personally continue to chase a rabbit hole about social constructs. It’s irrelevant to what I ask and I understand you view it differently but to me it’s a silly use of my time. I’ve been enraged in this line of argument on this subject randomly a few times. We simply won’t agree on the use and benefit of race. It does suck that idiots use these things to bring people down, or to feel more superior, but it’s not my use or concern when I use phrases like I’m white, or my gf is asian and ect…

Race is typically used to describe skin tone, and general noticeable appearances. Like when I see a albino black guy, despite the skin tone being differently I can still tell he’s African descent in the way we use those terms. I’ve also never actually met a person of color in person who was offended by being recognized as being black and so on. I have no problem obviously if people want to debate it, or if I’m the only none who views it’s differently and so on, I’m just not going to spend my time after this comment arguing why I think race is a great way to label physical characteristics.

So why does this phenotype seem to correlate with what we have accepted tied into relation to now extinct human species that breed with ours? It’s just random correlation.

It’s just random that Europeans have a higher percentage of the Neanderthal species compared to Africans and that Denisovans and Neanderthal seems tied to Asians and that black Africans seems to have the lowest of these?

Just random correlation? There the question. No agenda. Just curious how it ties together. It’s not magical so there is a reason and that reason seems to be related to ancestry right?

For the sake of my own understanding, can you clarify on this difference? My quick look at definitions for those two words indicate that ‘phenotype’ refers to observable traits that are determined by both genetics and environment. Other than getting the occasional tan … environment doesn’t really determine the skin tone I have as an individual, right? … that would be entirely genetic in my limited understanding.

When referring to plants, genotype typically means something in the same species. It’s the genetic make up. Even if they look the same. Like spiders that are the same species. The phenotype comes in on morphology. Like the same species of spider may have a blue dot on their back in Europe but has a red dot on their back in Africa but when looking at their genetics there are no differences to indicate a different species. They just are different lines of the same species.

For me with my question it does not really fully answer what I am seeing concerning the correlations of extinct species and their potential role in their offspring of our species.

  • I am at my next job so it will be a while before I can respond to anything.

Saying its a social construct is not a way of saying race constructs aren’t useful. They emerge because they are, whether that use is good or bad. Gender is a useful social construct too, but as our recent context shows you cannot always tell someone’s biological sex by the degree to which they display constructed gender norms. Same with race, the categories they produce are not based on absolute biological realities, they are based on perceptions. That doesn’t make them meaningless or arbitrary. Even though gender is a social construct, it’s not meaningless or arbitrary that biological sex and gender performance correlate to a large degree most of the time.

Saying race is a construct just means that the features that count as “non-white” are socially, not genetically defined. Throughout American history at different points, Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans, and anyone Jewish was not “white.” You can think it is silly, but it is a fact. There is often more genetic difference between two Africans than between an African and a European, but based on phenotype, the two Africans would be considered “the same race.” Plus race constructs are not just based on skin color. The whole genocide in Rwanda was based on people claiming there were these obvious physical differences between the Tutsis and the Hutu. They even had measurements that put you in one or the other “race.” They were not accurate for predicting your genetics.

What do you do with something like this?: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/25/race-east-jackson-ohio-appalachia-white-black

Plus, the correlations with physical features and geography are not as absolute as you are making it sound. The first picture below is a girl from Thailand and the second is a girl from Mexico. You are saying you can easily tell just by looking at skin tone and facial features that one is Asian and one is North American? I can’t.

image

image

It only “seems” to. There is no single genotype for skin tone, that was my point. Populations in some Northern places evolved to produce less melanin by natural selection due to a variety of selective pressures. (Not all, look at the Inuits.)

From the Smithsonian site:

Early studies of human diversity showed that most genetic diversity was found between individuals rather than between populations or continents and that variation in human diversity is best described by geographic gradients, or clines. A wide-ranging study published in 2004 found that 87.6% percent of the total modern human genetic diversity is accounted for by the differences between individuals, and only 9.2% between continents. In general, 5%–15% of genetic variation occurs between large groups living on different continents, with the remaining majority of the variation occurring within such groups (Lewontin 1972; Jorde et al. 2000a; Hinds et al. 2005). These results show that when individuals are sampled from around the globe, the pattern seen is not a matter of discrete clusters – but rather gradients in genetic variation (gradual geographic variations in allele frequencies) that extend over the entire world. Therefore,there is no reason to assume that major genetic discontinuities exist between peoples on different continents or “races.” The authors of the 2004 study say that they ‘see no reason to assume that “races” represent any units of relevance for understanding human genetic history. An exception may be genes where different selection regimes have acted in different geographical regions. However, even in those cases, the genetic discontinuities seen are generally not “racial” or continental in nature but depend on historical and cultural factors that are more local in nature’ (Serre and Pääbo 2004: 1683-1684).

It’s not random. It’s just not what determines skin tone. As I understand it, paleoanthropologists believe some human ancestors migrated out of Africa 1.9 million years ago. Those populations settled in different places and continued to evolve. Anatomically modern humans evolved over a time period 300,000-130,000 years ago from human ancestors who had remained in Africa as other human ancestors dispersed to other parts of the world. The anatomically modern humans moved out of Africa around 70,000-50,000 years ago, and encountered the descendants of other populations in other areas of the world, and evidently there was some interbreeding. That is where the DNA mixture comes from. Eventually this population that migrated from Africa the second time replaced other nonmodern human species that had evolved in other places, such as the Neanderthals in Europe and parts of Asia, and Homo erectus in the Far East. But the fact that all modern humans share ancestry with the population that came out of Africa the second time is what makes us all more genetically similar than different. It is also why the greatest amounts of genetic diversity between humans is found between Africans of very different ancestry, not between Africans and Europeans.

As I understand it, genotype is a designation of which gene alleles an individual has at a certain point in the genome. Mendel and the peas. Xx, XX, or xx for a given trait, like hitchhiker’s thumb. The phenotype would be the physical manifestation of the trait based on the combination of recessive and dominant alleles. And yes, sometimes environment or epigenetics contribute to what physical manifestation is observed.

But not all traits are controlled by a single gene, so they can’t be correlated to a single genotype. Skin tone is one of them, that is why there is such a range of expressions. In humans there are 378 different genotypes (specific combinations of alleles at specific locations in the genome) that contribute to skin pigmentation. Then of course things like nutrition, sun exposure, chemical application can affect an individual’s expression of their genetics.

3 Likes

That may be what biologists thought until they discovered the extensive interbreeding which meant that they were a subspecies and not a different species. So this classification is in transition as biologists revise previous dogmas.

definition of species

a group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g. Homo sapiens .

I’ll have to see the evidence concerning neanderthals being a subspecies vs species, and if so, I guess I still don’t see it changing what I said about whites with higher percentages of neanderthals interbreeding with Homo sapiens creating a hybridized subspecies that’s different from the ones that are in other lineages.

As stated I don’t see the need to clarify the point of using white to describe Europeans. I simply did not grow up gender and racial blind and have always been able to basically tell that someone like Constance Wu is an asian woman and not be in doubt if they are a black man and ect… when I saw brad Pitt for the first time without knowing anything about him I instantly knew he was a white guy and not a black or asian guy or a woman and ect… so it works perfectly for me to use the classifications I use , and that basically everyone uses except for movements that seem mostly geared towards political stances.

It reminds me of the controversy over the classification of Pluto as a planet or a dwarf planet.

The names and categories we make always have a degree of arbitrary distinctions being made.

So the point is that whether Neanderthals are a different species is now a question which is under debate also, and the most you can say is that the debate has not be fully resolved.

Also I think race refers to more than just skin type. We don’t refer to albino Africans as being white. So it seems race consists of me than just skin tone. Because regardless of lighter or darker, we still refer to Inuits as Asians and not as being black. Filipinos also have a wide spread skin tone yet we all still recognize them as Asians.

So the genetics we have from neanderthals in higher concentrations of Europeans have no physical affects on our looks? It’s just Chance that they correlate without causation is what is being said?

No, we are saying Neanderthal genes alone are not what make you “white.”

I found a paper on phenotypes that correlate with Neanderthal DNA:

Also, scientists have recently found significant gene flow between Neanderthals and Africans, so it isn’t true that Neanderthal genes are what distinguish Europeans, Asians, and Africans.

I actually posted that same one earlier. It says they have up to .3%, and we have routinely 2%.

I also found a paper that mentions a possible correlation between Neanderthals and skin pigmentation and maybe hair. The paper has a few others it’s linked too.

As everything is coming together more and more it really seems to be in my favor that the cross breeding between various human species with sapiens helped contribute to physical attributes. Secondly, though correlation does not necessarily mean causation, it often can. In case, it seems interesting to note once again that the same major roaming grounds of Neanderthals matches to the European areas and Asian areas with a stronger gene flow link, and additionally the Denisovans and Neanderthals converge on the same areas as Asia. Again, it’s more than just skin tone to race.

Verses the other argument I’m hearing is that, there is no correlation between the ancient human species and their crossbreeding and modern features because Africans have .3% and we have roughly 6-9 times as much.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.