Neanderthals never interbred with modern humans, reveals genome study

February 13th, 2009 - 1:54 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Feb 13 (ANI): The first complete draft of the Neanderthal genome has revealed no evidence that this ancient species ever interbred with modern humans.

According to a report by BBC News, a total of three billion letters, covering 60 percent of the Neanderthal genome, have been sequenced by scientists from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and 454 Life Sciences Corporation, in Branford, Connecticut.

Neanderthals lived in Europe and parts of Asia until they became extinct about 30,000 years ago.

Since Neanderthals lived side by side with modern humans in Europe for many thousands of years, it has been speculated that we may have inherited some Neanderthal DNA in our genome today, thanks to interbreeding.

But, Professor Svante Paabo from Germanys Max Planck Institute and his team have found no evidence for this.

They focused on a gene implicated in brain development - microcephalin-1 - which shows significant variation among present day humans.

It has been suggested that a particular variant of the gene, found commonly in Europeans, was contributed by Neanderthals.

But, the Croatian Neanderthal fossils harboured an ancestral form of the microcephalin-1 gene, which today is also found among Africans.

Overall, it seems that Neanderthals have contributed, at most, a very limited fraction of the variation found in contemporary human populations, according to Prof Paabo.

According to Professor Chris Stringer, from the Natural History Museum, London, UK, If the Neanderthal genome data show little evidence of potential hybridization, that would fit with my view from the fossil evidence that, while interbreeding was probably possible, it may have occurred only rarely, with trivial impact on modern humans.

The populations had been separate for hundreds of thousands of years and I think there would have been significant physical and behavioural differences between them, he said.

However, larger samples would be desirable to get a more complete picture, and hopefully those will follow soon, he added. (ANI)

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