According to a study published recently in the journal Nature, the Home sapiens settlers in Europe had Neanderthals as their ancestors. Another previous work suggested that human ancestors interbred with Neanderthals around 55,000 years back, most likely in the Middle East.
The results of the new study are indicating an additional mixing after the modern humans entered Europe. The study primarily focused on analyzing ancient European genome. The international team of researchers carrying out the study successfully derived and sequenced genetic component from a jawbone excavated in 2002. The said jawbone was found in Peștera cu Oase, a cave system in southwest Romania.
When analyzing, the researchers found that the ancient man was more closely related to the Neanderthals than all other modern humans analyzed to date. According to the research team, 6 to 9% of the Oase man’s genome belongs to Neanderthals, which is a really unprecedented amount. The modern-day Europeans have just 2 to 4% of their genome from the Neanderthals.
When DNA is passed from one generation to another, its segments break up and recombine; as a result, genetic components inherited from a particular individual get interspersed with the components inherited from other ancestors.
The scientists are saying that the chunks of Neanderthal DNA found in the fossil are big enough to indicate that the Oase man had a Neanderthal forerunner just 4 to 6 generations back.
According to Harvard Medical School’s Professor David Reich, one of the coauthors of the paper, this finding has surprised them significantly. He added that it’s true that during the past few years, scientists have documented interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals, but they never thought that they will succeed in finding remains of a person who was actually a part of that event.
Another coauthor of the study Professor Svante Paabo, a representative of the Leipzig, Germany-based Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said that they are extremely lucky to obtain DNA of an individual who is such a close relative of the Neanderthals.
Previously conducted analyses of modern and ancient human genomes suggest that the interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals probably took place soon after they moved out of their homeland in Africa.
The scientists say so because the modern humans, who didn’t have their origins in sub-Saharan Africa, carry a small amount of Neanderthal’s DNA, which indicates that the mixing took place before the humans spread into Oceania, Europe and Asia.