Usually the main theories about Neanderthal migrations have told us that this group of hominids settled mostly in Europe and then moved to Asia and that the genes they introduced in some populations of Homo sapiens would concern only European and not African populations. However, a new study, published in the journal Cell and conducted by a team of researchers at Princeton, shows that this is not the case: Neanderthal genes may have also “taken root” in African populations, albeit indirectly.
Through a new method of DNA analysis from ancient bones, Princeton researchers have found Neanderthal origins in African and non-African populations. This is the first time that traces of Neanderthals have been found in the Africans, as pointed out by Lu Chen, one of the authors of the study and researcher at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics (LSI).
The researchers’ analyses showed that the migration of European populations to Africa introduced Neanderthal genes into African populations.
And it would not have been a direct cross between Neanderthals themselves and African populations: the genes would have come from Homo sapiens populations that already had part of the Neanderthal genome within their DNA. So the theory that Neanderthals would never have frequented Africa still holds.
The migrations of humans who had Neanderthal genes to Africa would have occurred at least 100,000 years ago, before the migrations of African populations to Europe which then led to the modern colonization of Europe and Asia.
“This shows that the remnants of the Neanderthal genome survive in every modern human population studied to date,” stresses Chen.
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