Advantages of Neanderthal DNA in the Human Genome

The retention of ancient hominin DNA in modern human genomes may have helped our ancestors adapt to life in diverse environments. The interbreeding of Neanderthals and Denisovans with Homo sapiens resulted in advantageous Neanderthal-inherited alleles in the genomes of a diverse range of modern humans, according to genomicists. The team’s analysis expands the number of loci in the human genome attributed to these ancient hominins. The results suggest that these alleles—mostly within immune and skin pigmentation genes—likely helped modern humans adapt to life outside of Africa. “The study expands our knowledge of the extent to which Neanderthals and Denisovans contributed functionally relevant genetic variation to modern humans,” Svante Pääbo, an evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, who was not involved in the work, wrote in an email to The Scientist. “It shows that the contribution [of hominin DNA] is substantial and is larger than I assumed when we first discovered that these extinct hominins had mixed with modern human ancestors.”

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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