(ORDO NEWS) — When we imagine Neanderthal interactions with our early human ancestors, we usually think of aggressive skirmishes and hunting competition.
However, now scientists have found that the two types of people interacted for at least 200 thousand years – this is too long a period for active hostilities, but sufficient for the gradual “dissolution” of one species into another.
Today, about two percent of the genome of people living outside Africa came to us from Neanderthals , the second kind of people who roamed the expanses of Eurasia 40,000 years ago.
However, if primitive people interbred with Neanderthals, then the process of gene exchange went both ways – and what effect did it have on the Neanderthals themselves?
The ancestors of Neanderthal and modern humans separated about 600,000 years ago: while some moved north into the cooler regions of Europe and Asia, the predecessors of the current Homo sapiens remained in Africa for a long time.
The mass exodus of modern humans to Europe began only about 70,000 years ago, but in recent years, evidence has accumulated that individual travelers left their home continent before.
The first clashes between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals began 250,000 years ago, after which, for at least 200,000 years ago, the two species of people somehow got along on the same territory.
Judging by the presence of Neanderthal DNA in modern people, these contacts were not always absolutely aggressive: as a result of some of them, hybrid children appeared that contributed to the modern human genome.
Curiously, although Neanderthal genes are present in the nuclear DNA of modern humans, scientists have not been able to detect them in mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited almost exclusively through the female line.
In other words, most likely there were no Neanderthal mothers among our ancestors, or the children from such unions for some reason did not give offspring.
Since no Homo sapiens genes have been identified in the 32 Neanderthal genomes sequenced to date , scientists are leaning towards the second option, although the sample is too small to draw firm conclusions.
In any case, interbreeding with another human species and producing infertile hybrids may have had a devastating effect on the few populations of the last Neanderthals.
Scientists hope that in the future, new genomes of our extinct relatives will be sequenced and this will allow us to accurately determine the nature of their relationship with Homo sapiens .
Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org