Hu­man-Ne­an­derthal mat­ing: the pre­quel

CityPress - - News -

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. –


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