For those of us living outside of Africa, Neanderthals could be in our family history. Granted we are talking about thousands of years ago, but a recent discovery proves that we have Neanderthal elements in our DNA.
For years scientists have known that Neanderthals and modern humans co-existed as two different species of human – and have since been searching for evidence that the two mated. This new study suggests that interbreeding did in fact take place thousands of years ago.
A fragment of Neanderthal DNA has been found on the X chromosome – of which woman have two and men have one. And it was reported that around one to four per cent of our DNA may actually hail from Neanderthal ancestors.
But how was this discovered? Years ago scientists discovered an element of human DNA that could not be indentified on the X chromosome. Then in 2010, partial Neanderthal DNA was found. Scientists have since compared the unidentified DNA fragment of more than 6,000 modern humans with the Neanderthal gene. They found that sequences on the Neanderthal X chromosome were similar to those of modern humans from all over the world – except sub-Saharan Africa.
When you consider that Neanderthals migrated from Africa around 300,000 to 750,000 years before modern humans, it makes sense that no Neanderthal DNA – no matter how small – could be found in African genes.
It’s unlikely that this has any effect on us now, but it’s interesting to think about how far back our heritage actually goes.