IBE & CEXS-UPF: Neanderthals mated with modern humans much earlier than previously thought

IBE & CEXS-UPF: Neanderthals mated with modern humans much earlier than previously thought

News from IBE & CEXS-UPF

According to a forthcoming publication in Nature, modern humans and Neanderthals interbred tens of thousands of years before than what had been previously reported. Using several different methods of DNA analysis and a greater amount of Neanderthal genomes, an international research team has reaffirmed the interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans that occurred previous to the 65.000 years thought so far: an estimated 100.000 years ago. Researchers suggest that some modern humans left Africa earlier than what we thought and mixed with Neanderthals. These modern humans probably became extinct and are therefore not among the ancestors of present-day humans.

Consistent with previous studies, modern humans appeared 200.000 years ago in Africa and spread through Eurasia around 65.000 years ago. Thanks to an unidirectional signal of Neanderthal DNA found in the genomes of humans outside Africa, it was also known that Neanderthals and modern humans had interbred by that time. The present study, however, brings to light the first evidence of the genetic contribution from modern humans to Neanderthals , a process that probably occurred in a previous migration.

The scientific team responsible for these findings consists of more than 20 researchers belonging to several European research centers including the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Germany) – leading the study -, the CSHL’s Simons Center for Quantitative Biology (USA), the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center (Israel), the Cornell University (USA), the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE, CSIC-UPF) the Centre Nacional d’Anàlisi Genòmica (CNAG-CRG) and the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA).

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Kuhlwilm, M.; Gronau, I.; Hubisz, M.J.; de Filippo, C.; Prado, J.; Kircher, M.; Fu, Q.; Burbano, H.A.; Lalueza-Fox, C.; de la Rasilla, M.; Rosas, A.; Rudan, P.; Brajkovic, D.; Kucan, Z.; Gušic, I.; Marques-Bonet, T.; Andrés, A.M.; Viola, B.; Pääbo, S.; Meyer, M.; Siepel A.; and Castellano, S. (2016). Ancient gene flow from modern humans into Siberian Neanderthals. Nature