Some interesting Neanderthal tidbits in the news today:
First, there's a report of the first Neanderthal remains to be found in Poland, indeed in all of Eastern Europe north of the Carpathians Mountains. The remains consist of three teeth thought to date to ca. 100-80,000 BP and found associated with abundant faunal and lithic material. I'll be writing about this report in detail very soon.
Second, an analysis of the TAS2R38 gene in the El Sidrón 1253 Neanderthal sample, indicates that Neanderthals, like modern H. sapiens, were able to taste the bitter chemical phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) found in certain green vegetables and some poisonous plants. That the gene could be expressed similarly (thought not always, which is very intriguing) in modern humans and Neanderthals "indicates that variation in bitter taste perception predates the divergence of the lineages leading to Neanderthals and modern humans." The actual study (available free, btw) has been out for a while, but had somehow slipped by my attention, hence its inclusion in today's Neanderthals tidbits.