Human-Neanderthal mating: the prequel
Research showing that our species interbred with Neanderthals about 100 000 years ago is providing intriguing evidence that Homo sapiens ventured out of Africa much earlier than previously thought.
Scientists said an analysis of the genome of a Neanderthal woman, whose remains were found in southern Siberia, detected residual DNA from Homo
sapiens, a sign of interspecies mating. Previous research established that Homo sapiens and our close cousins, the Neanderthals, interbred around 50 000 to 60 000 years ago, said geneticist Sergi Castellano of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.
The new study indicates that additional interbreeding occurred tens of thousands of years earlier.
Our species arose in Africa roughly 200 000 years ago and later migrated to other parts of the world.
The robust, large-browed Neanderthals prospered across Europe and Asia from about 350 000 years ago until shortly after 40 000 years ago, disappearing in the period after our species established itself in the region.
Despite an outdated reputation as our dim-witted cousins, scientists say Neanderthals were highly intelligent with complex hunting methods, probably used spoken language and symbolic objects, and were adept at making fire.
Neanderthal interbreeding with Homo sapiens had a lasting effect on human genetics. A study revealed a link between residual Neanderthal DNA in the human genome and traits in people, including depression, nicotine addiction, blood-clotting and skin lesions. –