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

Neanderthal human interbreeding
Image credit: Petr Student/Shutterstock

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.

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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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