Our Ancestors Were Interbreeding More Often Than We Thought

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Interbreeding between Neanderthals and their relatives was believed to happen rarely. However, it appears that our ancestors were a lot more promiscuous than it was originally believed, and researchers now have evidence for that.

Scientists analysed the DNA of the Neanderthal in Europeans and East Asians. It appeared that our ancestors originated from Africa and they managed to intertwine with different species around 75000 years ago.

The 1000 Genomes project

For this project, scientist mapped the DNA of 1000 people, from all over the world. Dr Joshua Schraiber shared with us the conclusion of the research team:

“I do think there was probably much more interbreeding than we initially suspected. Some of the fantastical aspect comes from a lack of clear definition of ‘species’ in this case. It is always very hard to know if an extinct group constituted a different species or not. My guess is that any time two different human groups lived in the same place at the same time for a while, they probably had some sort of breeding contact.”

The study is published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Dr Fabrizio Mafessoni, a geneticist, also shared his opinion:  “The scenario of multiple episodes of modern-human-Neanderthal interbreeding fits with the emerging view of complex and frequent interactions between different hominin groups.”

Studies also proved that humans and Neanderthals had sex with Denisovans, an extinct relative. The Denisovan species was found just in southern Siberia, and they were different from the rest.

Since breeding leaves a signature in our DNA, scientists used AI to discover that out DNA patterns can be explained by interbreeding between Neanderthal, East Asian and European populations. “These findings indicate a longer-term, more complex interaction between humans and Neanderthals than was previously appreciated,” Dr Schraiber concluded.


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