Study points to frequent inbreeding among neanderthals

Study points to frequent inbreeding among neanderthals

The neanderthals in siberia have produced descendants also with closer relatives about 50 000 years ago. This is what scientists from the max planck institute for evolutionary anthropology in leipzig found out. They base their statements on the examination of DNA extracted from a woman’s toe bone. According to the report, this woman’s parents were close relatives. The experts published their study in the british journal "nature".

"We ran various inbreeding scenarios on the computer and discovered that the parents of this neanderthal female must have been either half-siblings on her mother’s side, great cousin and great cousin, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, great father and granddaughter, or great mother and grandson," said population geneticist montgomery slatkin of the university of california in berkeley, u.S., who led part of the genome analyses. Further investigations revealed that the neanderthal populations were small and that inbreeding may have been more common.

Russian scientists unearthed the tiny bone in 2010 in the denisova cave in the altai mountains of siberia. Studies had already shown a close link between neanderthals and modern humans.

The neanderthal genome now provides more precise insights into the relationships between neanderthals and humans living today as well as extinct human groups, explained kay prufer of the max planck institute. "About 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the genome of humans living outside africa today is derived from neanderthals."The new data also showed that about 0.2 percent of the genome of mainland asians and native americans living today is due to denisova man. This extinct group is related to the neanderthals.

High-quality genome sequences also revealed, according to the researcher, that the genome of denisova man differs from the neanderthal genome in that it additionally contains the DNA of an unknown representative of the genus homo. "This ancient population of hominins existed at a time before neanderthal, denisova man and modern humans had separated," prufer said. "It is possible that this unknown hominin is the species of man known as homo erectus." this must now be further investigated.

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