A Cro-Magnon Capulet?

©2003 The National Academy of Sciences

Long ago, in what is now northwestern Europe, a Neanderthal Romeo and Cro-Magnon Juliet may have met, fallen in love, and had children--or not. Debate rages as to whether human ancestors migrating out of Africa displaced archaic humans like Neanderthals, or mixed with them. A new report lends credence to the displacement camp.

Geneticist Giorgio Bertorelle, University of Ferrara, Italy, purified and sequenced segments of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from two 24,000-year-old Cro-Magnon specimens. He then compared them to previously published Neanderthal mtDNA (29,000-42,000 years old), more recent Cro-Magnon samples, and modern human sequences. He found that the Cro-Magnon samples were more similar to modern humans than to Neanderthals, and he concludes that interbreeding was either nonexistent or extremely rare. (D. Caramelli et al., "Evidence for a genetic discontinuity between Neandertals and 24,000-year-old anatomically modern Europeans," Proc Natl Acad Sci, e-pub ahead...

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