Neanderthals had interbred with human ancestors, whose genomes are still in decline

A scientist has noticed something remarkable in the mitochondrial DNA of Neanderthals: over a quarter of those found in Spanish caves were inbred. This means that, though they were hunter-gatherers in Europe and Asia for thousands of years before agriculture, between 13,000 and 10,000 years ago they experienced interbreeding with people who were still living there.

The genome of a hunter-gatherer in Germany has shown that although he lived 150,000 years ago, he never underwent “the ‘modern’ [version of] human evolution.” The discovery was not made about him specifically but only because he was “the only one alive” at the time. According to the researcher, who is part of the team of scientists working on Neanderthal genetic ancestry, their genetic inheritance could have arisen relatively slowly, probably due to centuries of loneliness. In fact, she concluded, the hunter-gatherer was perhaps like a black sheep in his tribe and therefore managed to avoid the consequences of interbreeding with the Neanderthals.

A variation of tuberculosis found in the genome of one of the hunter-gatherers is associated with a bacterial group that had likely belonged to elephants, which may explain the emergence of tuberculosis disease in hunter-gatherers, possibly around 10,000 years ago.

Read the full story at BBC News.


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