Prehistoric sex: they discover regular contacts between humans and Neanderthals

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The crossbreeding of ‘Homo sapiens’ with Neanderthals, Denisovan men and other species was a common phenomenon in prehistoric times and known until now, but a new study shows that sex between these species became a habit throughout Eurasia. The consequences of this are present in almost every one of us.

As we know, our ancestors arrived in Europe and Asia from Africa, and on that path, the genome of the human species was diversifying with genetic material from other species, among which that of the Neanderthals stands out.
That cocktail of genes has reached humans today. In fact, we know that genetic material related to Neanderthal men has been found in locations as distant as Siberia and Croatia, which explains why this process occurred on a large scale throughout Eurasia, as if it were a “spider web” , as compared by the biologist Omer Gokcumen, from the University of Buffalo, who has led the study.
What we didn’t know until recently is how common it was for our ancestors to sleep with Neanderthals and other species. And the truth is that, since most of us still conserve genetic material from Neanderthals, almost all of us have a lot to thank for this species: the Science Alert portal assures that there is scientific evidence that defends that the DNA of that species helps us protect ourselves from viral epidemics. Something not negligible in this 2020.

The introduction of Neanderthal DNA into the Homo sapiens it was the consequence of a brief and punctual contact between the species, but the study of Gokcumen concludes that all the ancient genomes that we sequence will bring with them a new perspective, and that is something that the expert likes very much.

“We are discovering these connections, which is very exciting. The history is not as clear as it was before (…). Every new genome that is sequenced in the future can completely change the history again,” says the specialist.

In general, the data collected by Gokcumen and his team indicate that our most distant ancestors, in all the territory that goes from Western Europe to East Asia, mixed with different races of Neanderthals continuously. “My mental image, now, is that we have a whole archaic hominid population in Europe, in Asia, in Siberia, in Africa,” explains the expert.

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