Anthropologists had previously found evidence that early humans had interbred with Neanderthals some 55,000 years ago, most likely in the Middle East. This new find is the first evidence to suggest that interbreeding may have taken place in Europe as well.
Paris: Around 45,000 years ago, the only humans who lived in Europe were Neanderthals.
The two groups were different in appearance – Neanderthals were shorter and stockier, with prominent brow ridges – but genetically close for interbreeding. But the latest study shows interbreeding between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals about 40,000 years ago.
A worldwide team of researchers has published its analysis of the ancient European genome in Nature journal.
A jawbone belonging to a man living 40,000 years ago, unearthed in Romania provided a surprise finding to worldwide scientists. Radiocarbon dating of fossils from various sites across Europe suggests that Neanderthals and humans co-existed in Europe for about 5,000 years. This is a dramatic transition. Numerous features were clearly those of modern humans, but some definitively Neanderthal traits were also present. “It shows us that the very earliest modern humans that came to Europe really mixed with the local Neanderthals here”. “It’s an awesome bone”, Reich says.
The researchers hope to continue making discoveries in order to reconstruct the interactions between Neanderthals and modern humans in more detail.
The jaw was discovered tucked within the cave system of Pestera cu Oase in southwestern Romania back in 2002. Reich stated speaking concerning the DNA samples. These methods spanned the DNA against 3.7 million human genome positions to evaluate the variations between human populations. Most of the DNA she ended up with was human, but came from people who had handled the jawbone since 2002, rather than the jawbone itself.
The Neanderthal DNA in the jawbone was “distributed in big, big pieces on the chromosome”, Paabo said. Why they vanished is still unclear, but experts think they may have been unable to compete with more sophisticated modern humans for essential resources such as food and shelter. Through a series of statistical analyses, a surprising conclusion emerged.
Six to nine percent of its DNA samples were from Neanderthals. This is an unprecedented amount. Europeans and Asians inherited between 1 percent and 4 percent of their genetic material from Neanderthals. Researchers said the morphology of the jawbone was generally modern, but in many aspects it was consistent with Neanderthal ancestry. The fewer the generations that have passed, the fewer such splits and reorganizations will have occurred, and the longer the stretches of DNA contributed from an ancestor will be.
“It’s an incredibly unexpected thing”.
“The great breakthrough here is the ability to say ‘this specific person had a Neanderthal great-great-grandfather.’ That puts a human timescale on it”, said Oxford’s Tom Higham.