Everyone has a little Neandertal in them. Or, rather, some of us do: If you're of European or Asian descent, 1 percent–4 percent of your DNA might come from our extinct cousins, a brawny stock of homo thought to have hunted large game by tackling it. After years of heated argument based on the fossil record, analyzing the DNA of 40,000-year-old bones seems finally to have settled the question of whether Neandertals and modern humans interbred. They did. You can imagine the Stone Age dinner table conversations: "We like your date, honey, it's just ... Pat's a little ... robust. And, um ... prognathous."
As part of the museum's Science Connections lecture series, Thursday's featured speaker is Richard Edward Green, a professor of biomolecular engineering at University of California-Santa Cruz. Green is part of the team that sequenced the Neandertal (scientists' preferred spelling drops the "h") genome, another in a long chain of biomolecular successes that have revolutionized evolutionary science. Those little molecules sure know how to tell a story. The free lecture starts at 7 p.m.; come early for the 6 p.m. reception and you can chat with local university students about their anthropology and paleontology projects. Visit naturalsciences.org. —Marc Maximov