Jawbone sheds light on interbreeding

2015-06-22 21:33

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - You may not know it, but you probably have some Neanderthal in you. For people around the world, except sub-Saharan Africans, about 1 to 3% of their DNA comes from Neanderthals, our close cousins who disappeared roughly 39 000 years ago.

Scientists said on Monday a jawbone unearthed in Romania, of a man who lived about 40 000 years ago, boasts the most Neanderthal ancestry ever seen in a member of our species.

The finding that also indicates that interbreeding with Neanderthals occurred much more recently than previously known.

"We show that one of the very first modern humans that is known from Europe had a Neanderthal ancestor just four to six generations back in his family tree," said geneticist Svante Pääbo of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

"He carries more Neanderthal DNA than any other present-day or ancient modern human seen to date."

Harvard Medical School geneticist David Reich said 6 to 9% of this individual's genome derived from a Neanderthal ancestor.

The study, published in the journal Nature, indicates that our species interbred with Neanderthals in Europe as well, not just in the Middle East as previously thought, Pääbo said.

Previous research suggested this interbreeding occurred 50 000 to 60 000 years ago, before our species, arising in Africa, trekked into Europe, Asia and beyond.

"Modern humans arrive in Europe after 43 000 years ago, and Neanderthals went extinct by 39 000 years ago," Reich said.

Waves of migration

The scientists said a Neanderthal was among the individual's ancestors as recently as perhaps 100 to 150 years.

Reich said genetic analysis showed the individual, a hunter-gatherer, was from a "pioneer population" that entered Europe but did not contribute much or anything at all genetically to later Europeans.

"This is interesting because it means that Europe has not been continuously occupied by the same lineages ever since the first waves of migration of modern humans into Europe," Reich said.

The robust, large-browed Neanderthals prospered across Europe and Asia from about 350 000 years ago till shortly after 40 000 years ago, disappearing in the period after Homo sapiens arrived.

Despite an outdated reputation as our dimwitted cousins, scientists say Neanderthals were highly intelligent, as shown by their complex hunting methods, likely use of spoken language and symbolic objects, and sophisticated use of fire.

The lower jawbone was found in 2002 in Oase Cave in southwestern Romania. Previous attempts to extract DNA were unsuccessful but recent technological advances facilitated the new findings.

Read more on:    nature journal  |  romania  |  archaeology

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.