Human, Neanderthal mating was more than just a ‘one night stand’, study suggests

| | December 10, 2018
Neanderthal human interbreeding
Image credit: Petr Student/Shutterstock
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Once upon a time, prehistoric humans and our ancient Neanderthal cousins met and procreated. Except, that ‘once upon a time’ meeting is now looking less like a one night stand and more like a protracted bonkfest, according to a new analysis of modern human ancestry.

Scattered throughout the genome of anyone with non-African heritage are chunks of Neanderthal DNA – the hallmarks of a prehistoric tryst between our closest hominin relatives.

The presence of these chunks, making up 2%, on average, of the genome of anyone with roots in Europe, Asia, Australia or the Americas, pointed to a single period of intermingling – probably 50,000 to 60,000 years ago – not long after Homo sapiens emerged from Africa.

Related article:  Podcast: Bird poop, pus, and the Manhattan project—the surprising origins of the genetic alphabet

But that simple story was complicated by the discovery that people in East Asia have up to 20% higher Neanderthal ancestry than present-day Europeans.

To find out which scenario – dilution or multiple matings – was more likely, [researcher Josh Schraiber] and his colleague Fernando Villanea first looked at European and Asian populations separately. They analysed the distribution of Neanderthal chunks across genomes in the 1000 Genomes Project, a large public database of human genetic variation.

In both Europe and Asia, the patterns of inheritance pointed to multiple periods of mating, rather than just one.

Read full, original post: Humans and Neanderthals were frequent lovers, genetics reveals

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