Neanderthal DNA in Modern Humans

Non-African people carry remnants of the Neanderthal X chromosome, suggesting interbreeding with early human ancestors.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef (an unusual nickname for Jennifer) got her master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses. After four years of diving off the Gulf...

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Jul 19, 2011

FLICKR, ERICH FERDINAND

New evidence confirms suspicions that early modern humans, which left Africa some 300,000 to 750,000 years after Neanderthals, probably interbred with the physically stronger hominid species. The contact likely happened in the Middle East, the authors said, sometime after early modern humans left Africa 80,000 to 50,000 years ago.

Damian Labuda of the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center and his colleagues analyzed a particular segment of the human X chromosome, one of the two sex chromosomes, known as dys44—an 8-kilobase intronic region that flanks the human dystrophin gene and has proved to be a useful marker for human evolutionary studies.Thanks to last year’s complete sequencing of the Neanderthal genome, the researchers could compare the genomes of more than 6,000 modern humans with the ancient hominid, and found similar intronic sequences on the Neanderthal X chromosome, as well as on the X of...

“There is little doubt that this haplotype is present because of mating [of] our ancestors and Neanderthals,” Nick Patterson of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University said in a press release. “This is a very nice result, and further analysis may help determine more details.”

Correction: This story has been updated from its original version to correctly indicate that modern humans left Africa after Neanderthals. The Scientist regrets the error. 

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?