When humans called it quits with Neanderthals

Researchers now say that Neanderthals last interbred with the ancestors of today’s Europeans after modern humans with advanced stone tools migrated out of Africa, as recently as 47,000 years ago.

Modern humans appeared in the fossil record about 200,000 years ago, 30,000 years after Neanderthals appeared. At that time, modern humans coexisted with a number of other species of homonids which included the Neanderthals, our closest known relatives.

Neanderthal genetics

The Neanderthal genome was sequenced in 2010 from fossil DNA, and scientists found that Neanderthal DNA makes up an estimated 1 to 4 percent of the genome of modern Europeans. DNA collected from a uk paternity test could identify the amount of Neanderthal DNA that one possesses. Neanderthal genes may account for some of the attributes, including a strong immune system, which some Europeans enjoy today.

Scientists also found that some people outside of Africa share more genetic traits with Neanderthals than Africans do, suggesting that modern humans interbred with Neanderthals after they migrated out of Africa 100,000 years ago. Alternatively, another African group descendant from both Neanderthals and some populations of modern humans may have genetically diverged from other modern humans in Africa over 200,000 years ago. The former group may have remained genetically distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans until it eventually migrated out of Africa.

To determine why Neanderthals appear more closely related to people outside of Africa, researchers examined sections of DNA from both European and Neanderthal genomes. These DNA sections are created from the joining of sperm and egg cells, which forms new combinations of genetic material. Each recombination of the genetic material decreases the length of the section of DNA. Therefore, by comparing the lengths of the DNA strands “we can estimate when the two populations last shared genes,” explained Sriram Sankararaman, a statistical geneticist at Harvard Medical School.

Through this process, the scientists estimate that Neanderthals and modern humans last interbred somewhere between 37,000 and 86,000 years ago, but most likely between 47,000 and 65,000 years ago. This time period is well after modern humans migrated outside of Africa, although they may have not yet have migrated to Eurasia.

The time period that these two groups last interbred was during the Upper Paleolitic period. During this period, modern humans had already began using relatively advanced stone tools including knife blades, spear points, and tools used for engraving and drilling.

New Insights

“I think we will be able to get new insights on how modern humans adapted as they occupied new regions,” Sankararaman told LiveScience. “It shows the power of genetic data to learn about historical events.”

Scientists plan to investigate possible interbreeding of other prehistoric groups, such as the potential mixing of the genetics of modern Papuans and the recently discovered Denisovans, an extinct human group.

“There are technical challenges here,” Sankararaman said. “Papuans have had gene flow from Neanderthals and from Denisovans. That makes it challenging to tease their contributions apart.”

Image Credit: Adam Kuban

Derek is a history and science blogger for multiple blogs. When he is not researching he enjoys spending time with his family. The following article is for uk paternity test.

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