Nature

Published on October 6th, 2012 | by James Ayre

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Neanderthals And 'Modern Humans' Mixed 37,000-86,000 Years Ago, New Research Says

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October 6th, 2012 by

New research is confirming the previously put forward theory that groups of ‘modern humans’ interbred with Neandertals as they journeyed out of Africa, leaving behind some Neanderthal DNA in modern non-Africans.
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For the research, scientists from Harvard and the Max Planck Institute created an estimate of when the last shared ancestors of modern Europeans and Neanderthals lived.

“When the Neandertal genome was sequenced in 2010 it revealed that people outside Africa share slightly (up to 4% according to current data) more genetic variants with Neandertals than Africans do. One scenario that could explain this observation is that modern humans mixed with Neandertals when they came out of Africa. An alternative, but more complex, scenario is that African populations ancestral to both Neandertals and modern humans remained subdivided over a few hundred thousand years and that those more related to Neandertals subsequently left Africa.”

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“Dr. Sriram Sankararaman and colleagues measured the length of DNA pieces in the genomes of Europeans that are similar to Neandertals. Since recombination between chromosomes when egg and sperm cells are formed reduces the size of such pieces in each generation, the Neandertal-related pieces will be smaller the longer they have spent in the genomes of present-day people.”

The results this yielded place the estimate for the last time that Neandertals and modern humans last genetic material at between 37,000 and 86,000 years ago. This is well after the time that modern humans first appeared outside of Africa. The data clearly confirms that “Neanderthals (or their close relatives) had children with the direct ancestors of present-day people outside Africa.”

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The new research was just published in the journal PLoS Genetics.

Source: Public Library of Science and Science

Image Credits: Elisabeth Daynes; Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



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