-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, July 22 (HealthDay News) -- Genetic research from
Canadian scientists confirms early modern humans interbred with
An international team of researchers found that some of the
human X chromosome can be traced to Neanderthals and is found in
Neanderthals are thought to have lived until about 30,000 years
ago in what is now France, Spain, Germany and Russia. Their
ancestors however, left Africa long before that -- about 400,000 to
800,000 years ago. Meanwhile, early modern humans left Africa
between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago.
Although Neanderthals were physically more powerful than early
modern humans, they possessed the gene for language and may have
even played the flute. Now, researchers confirmed what experts have
long considered: the two species actually interbred. The
researchers pointed out this probably happened early on at the
crossroads of the Middle East.
About 10 years ago, researchers identified a piece of DNA
(called a haplotype) in the human X chromosome that appeared
By 2010, when the Neanderthal genome was sequenced, the
researchers compared 6,000 chromosomes from all parts of the world
to the Neanderthal haplotype. The Neanderthal sequence was present
in peoples across all continents, except for sub-Saharan Africa,
and including Australia.
"There is little doubt that this haplotype is present because of mating with our ancestors and Neanderthals. This is a very nice result, and further analysis may help determine more details," human ancestry researcher Dr. Nick Patterson, of the Broad Institute of MIT at Harvard University said in a news release from the University of Montreal.
The study's authors noted the close association with
Neanderthals probably helped early modern human survival around the
world. "Variability is very important for long-term survival of a
species," researcher Damian Labuda, of the University of Montreal,
said in the news release. "Every addition to the genome can be
The study was published in the July issue of
Molecular Biology and Evolution.
The National Human Genome Research Institute provides more
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