Early Europeans Interbred with Neanderthals

Yahoo! News, June 23, 2015

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A new study, published in the journal Nature on Monday, delves into the controversial sex-with-Neanderthals theory.

The hanky-panky, it suggests, had deep roots, for it began soon after H. sapiens showed up in Europe.

Researchers extracted DNA from the 40,000-year-old jawbone, found in 2002 in the Pestera cu Oase cave system in southwestern Romania, which is claimed to come from the oldest modern human found in Europe.

“The sample is more closely related to Neanderthals than any other modern human we’ve ever looked at before,” said David Reich of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Harvard Medical School, who co-led the probe.

“We estimate that six to nine percent of its genome is from Neanderthals. This is an unprecedented amount. Europeans and East Asians today have more like two percent.”

The proportion is so big that in this individual’s case, Neanderthal and sapiens got it on just 200 years earlier, or four to six generations previously, the scientists believe.

H. sapiens arrived in Europe from the Middle East, the first stopping point in our forerunners’ emergence from Africa, according to a common theory.

Interbreeding between Neanderthals and H. sapiens in the Middle East occurred around 50,000-60,000 years ago, previous fossil research suggests.

But the new study says the mingling did certainly did not stop there.

“Mixture between modern humans and Neanderthals was not limited to the first ancestors of present-day people to leave Africa, or to people in the Near East,” according to the paper.

“It occurred later as well, and probably in Europe.”

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