Génétique et paléoanthropologie : deux approches pour un dialogue autour des Néandertaliens

Article / Article

Résumé

Depuis la première découverte de fossiles néandertaliens, les paléoanthropologues se sont intéressés à ce taxon et ont apporté des réponses visant à expliquer son histoire et son extinction. À partir de 1997, la paléogénétique a commencé, elle aussi, à étudier la question, en s’appuyant sur l’analyse de l’ADN mitochondrial (l’ADNmt) puis sur celle de l’ADN nucléaire (l’ADNn) d’une quinzaine de fossiles répartis entre l’Europe et l’Asie. Dans cette courte synthèse, nous allons nous intéresser aux contributions respectives de ces deux disciplines, la paléoanthropologie et la paléogénétique, contributions qui sous-tendent les quatre propositions suivantes: l’Homme de Néandertal est différent de l’Homme actuel; la divergence entre la lignée de Néandertal et celle de l’Homme actuel est ancienne; l’Homme de Néandertal n’a pas contribué au pool génétique mitochondrial de l’Homme actuel; l’Homme de Néandertal est constitué d’une seule population de taille réduite. Cette analyse permet de faire le point sur nos connaissances concernant l’Homme de Néandertal et de prendre toute la mesure de l’importance d’une approche pluridisciplinaire sur un tel sujet.

Mots clés

Paléodémographie Populations fossiles Paléogénétique ADNmt Phylogenèse Hybridation 

Genetics and paleoanthropology: two approaches for one aim, the study of Neanderthals

Abstract

Since the initial discovery of the Neanderthal, these fossils have been subject to intense scrutiny by paleoanthropologists, and numerous hypotheses about their biological history and theories about their extinction have been proposed. Beginning in 1997, a dozen Neanderthal fossils, from sites in Europe through Asia, have been sequenced and partial mtDNA (mitochrondrial DNA) and nDNA (nuclear DNA) sequences have been obtained. By studying these sequences, paleogenetics has provided complementary explanations about Neanderthal life and disappearance. In this brief overview, we focus mainly on the contributions of these two disciplines in order to examine four points: the difference between Neanderthals and modern humans; how ancient the divergence was between the Neanderthal and modern human lineages; whether the Neanderthals contributed to the mtDNA of modern humans; and if the Neanderthals may be characterized as a single and small-sized Neanderthal population.

Keywords

Paleodemography Fossils populations Paleogenetics mtDNA Phylogenetics Admixture 

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Copyright information

© Société d'anthropologie de Paris et Springer-Verlag France 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.faculté de médecine secteur nordUMR 6578, unité d’anthropologie bioculturelle, université de la Méditerranée-CNRS-EFSMarseille cedex 15France

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