Dating encounters between modern humans and Neandertals
To discover why Neandertals are most closely related to people outside Africa, Harvard and Max Planck Institute scientists have estimated the date when Neandertals and modern Europeans last shared ancestors. The research, published in the journal PLoS Genetics, provides a historical context for the interbreeding. It suggests that it occurred when modern humans carrying Upper Paleolithic technologies encountered Neandertals as they expanded out of Africa. When the Neandertal genome was sequenced in 2010 it revealed that people outside Africa share slightly more genetic variants with Neandertals than Africans do. One scenario that could explain this observation is that modern humans mixed with Neandertals when they came out of Africa. An alternative, but more complex, scenario is that African populations ancestral to both Neandertals and modern humans remained subdivided over a few hundred thousand years and that those more related to Neandertals subsequently left Africa.
Dr. Sriram Sankararaman and colleagues measured the length of DNA pieces in the genomes of Europeans that are similar to Neandertals. Since recombination between chromosomes when egg and sperm cells are formed reduces the size of such pieces in each generation, the Neandertal-related pieces will be smaller the longer they have spent in the genomes of present-day people.
The team estimate that Neandertals and modern humans last exchanged genes between 37,000 and 86,000 years ago, well after modern humans appeared outside Africa but potentially before they started spreading across Eurasia. This suggests that Neandertals (or their close relatives) had children with the direct ancestors of present-day people outside Africa.
Source: Public Library of Science
- Dating encounters between modern humans and Neandertalsfrom Science DailyThu, 4 Oct 2012, 20:31:09 EDT
- Dating encounters between modern humans and Neandertalsfrom PhysorgThu, 4 Oct 2012, 17:03:21 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Brain's 'thesaurus' mapped to help decode inner thoughts
- Exploring phosphorene, a promising new material
- Hunting wolves near Denali, Yellowstone cuts wolf sightings in half
- Not just climate change: Study finds human activity is a major factor driving wildfires
- Trinity scientists reveal origin of Earth's oldest crystals
- Providing children with tablets loaded with literacy apps yields positive results
- Light echoes give clues to planet nursery around star
- Carbon dioxide fertilization greening Earth, study finds
- Model predicts how forests will respond to climate change
- Poor understandability of notifications sent to women regarding breast density
- NASA's Fermi telescope poised to pin down gravitational wave sources
- Study: Cities have individual microbial signatures
- Breast cancer patients receiving Herceptin treatment should be monitored for heart damage at any age
- Zip software can detect the quantum-classical boundary
- NASA sees Fantala's eye wide open north of Madagascar