Tags: neanderthals | humans | interbreeding

Neanderthals, Modern Humans Interbred Earlier Than Thought

Image: Neanderthals, Modern Humans Interbred Earlier Than Thought

Neanderthal figure at Neanderthals Museum in Mettmann, Germany, (Horst Ossinger/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

By    |   Friday, 19 Feb 2016 11:46 AM

Neanderthals and modern humans may have mated each other as much as 50,000 years earlier in history than originally thought, according to a new study.

Earlier studies suggested that there was crossbreeding between humans outside of Africa and Neanderthals about 47,000 to 65,000 years ago, based on DNA evidence, said the study published Wednesday in the science journal Nature, but new research has found that humans also contributed to the DNA of Neanderthals from the Altai Mountains in Siberia about 100,000 years ago.

"We find that a population that diverged early from other modern humans in Africa contributed genetically to the ancestors of Neanderthals from the Altai Mountains roughly 100,000 years ago," the study stated. "By contrast, we do not detect such a genetic contribution in the Denisovan or the two European Neanderthals.

"We conclude that in addition to later interbreeding events, the ancestors of Neanderthals from the Altai Mountains and early modern humans met and interbred, possibly in the Near East, many thousands of years earlier than previously thought."

Sergi Castellano, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, led the research comparing modern humans with extinct relatives, said New Scientist magazine. The group also examined 500 genomes from living Africans, noted the magazine.

New Scientist said a chunk of the modern human DNA was found in a Neanderthals gene linked to language development.

"This study is an eye-opener," Maria MartinOn-Torres at University College London, told New Scientist. "A whole unknown episode is open now to investigate."

The New York Times said the findings are still surprising because of previous evidence that indicated that today's humans did not expand out of Africa until 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. The study suggests that Neanderthals received the human DNA from an unknown early human migration, said the Times.

"I think at this point we've convinced everybody the observation is real," Adam Siepel, a geneticist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and a co-author of the new study, told the Times. "But the story behind the observation is still very much in dispute."

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Neanderthals and modern humans may have mated each other as much as 50,000 years earlier in history than originally thought, according to a new study.
neanderthals, humans, interbreeding
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2016-46-19
Friday, 19 Feb 2016 11:46 AM
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