Image credits: macroevolution.narod.ru
Don't be so sure that modern humans and Neanderthals at some point interbred.
ScienceDaily — New research raises questions about the theory that modern humans and Neanderthals at some point interbred, known as hybridisation. The findings of a study by researchers at the University of Cambridge suggest that common ancestry, not hybridisation, better explains the average 1-4 per cent DNA that those of European and Asian descent (Eurasians) share with Neanderthals.
The study was published Aug. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In the last two years, a number of studies have suggested that modern humans and Neanderthals had at some point interbred. Genetic evidence shows that on average Eurasians and Neanderthals share between 1-4 per cent of their DNA. In contrast, Africans have almost none of the Neanderthal genome. The previous studies concluded that these differences could be explained by hybridisation which occurred as modern humans exited Africa and bred with the Neanderthals who already inhabited Europe.
However, a new study funded by the BBSRC and the Leverhulme Trust has provided an alternative explanation for the genetic similarities. The scientists found that common ancestry, without any hybridisation, explains the genetic similarities between Neanderthals and modern humans. In other words, the DNA that Neanderthal and modern humans share can all be attributed to their common origin, without any recent influx of Neanderthal DNA into modern humans.