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Tracking Neanderthal DNA in modern humans: There’s been little change in 45,000 years

| | February 6, 2019

Neanderthals, modern humans’ closest evolutionary relatives, have been extinct for thousands of years. But due to interbreeding between the two groups around 55,000 years ago, remnants of our long-lost kin remain in the genetic material of individuals alive today. Scientists have previously suggested Neanderthal DNA was gradually removed from modern human genomes during the last 45,000 years. But a new study, published [January 29] in PNAS, reports that Neanderthal ancestry in Europe likely experienced a quick purge from modern humans’ genomes but then held steady since then.

[Previous research] conducted simulations to model what would have happened if Neanderthals did indeed accrue mutations much more quickly than modern humans. This revealed that rather than slowly declining over time, Neanderthal DNA in modern human genomes would have rapidly decreased during the first 10 to 20 generations after the two groups interbred, a time period of less than 1,000 years, then remained unchanged throughout future generations.

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[Researcher Benjamin] Vernot’s group analyzed the data [with updated statistics] and took advantage of an additional Neanderthal genome that was characterized in 2017—and found no change in Neanderthal ancestry over the last 45,000 years.

Read full, original post: Neanderthal Ancestry in Europeans Unchanged for Last 45,000 Years

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