Neanderthal-human baby-making was recent — and brief

Neanderthal-human baby-making was recent — and brief

Nature reports:

Some 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals in western Eurasia acquired strange new neighbours: a wave of Homo sapiens migrants making their way out of Africa, en route to future global dominance. Now, a study of hundreds of ancient and modern genomes has pinpointed when the two species began pairing off — and has found that the genetic intermingling lasted for only a short time, at least on an evolutionary scale.

The high-resolution analysis also allowed the authors to track when certain Neanderthal DNA sequences appeared in the H. sapiens genome and determine whether they were retained. The findings were published earlier this month on the preprint server bioRxiv. They have not yet been peer reviewed.

Relations between a good number of humans and Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) must have been cordial: almost every living individual not of African ancestry carries genetic remnants of past pairings between the two species. Previous estimates indicated that this mixing occurred over a broad period between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, but the actual timing of this ‘gene flow’ and its long-term consequences remain poorly understood. [Continue reading…]

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