Our Neanderthal Ancestors

The science magazine Nature has published an article that claims to prove that Europeans and Asians have traces of Neanderthal DNA: “European and Asian genomes have traces of Neanderthal.”

Svante Pääbo leads a team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Leipzig. They have been sequencing the DNA of Neanderthal bones found in Vindija Cave in Croatia. When they completed their initial work on the Neanderthal DNA a year ago, the scientists wanted to compare the Neanderthal DNA to sequenced DNA of modern individuals. Their sample modern DNA came from people in France, Africa, China, and Papua New Guinea.

What they found was that 1-4% of the DNA of Europeans and Asians comes from Neanderthals. This was not true of Africans. Their estimate is that migrating humans in Europe and Asia Minor interbred with Neanderthals 45,000 to 80,000 years ago.

Talk about deep genealogy!

There will be a lot of further research into the implications of this partial ancestry of humans from near cousins in the distant past. Are there any traits or vulnerabilities or survival strengths some of us come to because of this ancestry? There will be much to ponder as the research results are completed.

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