How Neanderthal Are You?
The evolution of easy access to DNA testing has contributed immense information to testing service DNA databases that allow tracking back thousands of years. However, new technology allows testing to go back even further, and perhaps as far back as more than 60,000 years ago.
At about this time in history, early humans moved from Africa to other regions of the world. These regions had a variety of different hominins, which are the ancestors of today's humans. Depending on the region of the world, different hominins were present, each with slightly different characteristics and features. The result was the movement of Neanderthals throughout what is now the Middle East and Europe. There was also another group, known as the Denisovans, which moved throughout Asia.
These groups met and procreated, which resulted in different DNA base pairs found today. The result is that most Europeans and Asians today have about two percent of their genomes from Neanderthals. Asians also have up to six percent of their DNA from the Denisovans.
Originally, it was believed that the population of Africa had limited Neanderthal DNA as the movement of the early humans did not reach that far. Through new studies and increasing information in DNA databases, these theories are now in question.
New Findings and Models
Results in recent studies show that African populations have a higher level of Neanderthal DNA than originally believed. In addition, a new model provides greater insight into the early underestimation of DNA ancestry from Neanderthals in modern Europeans.
Studies at Princeton University have found 17 million base pairs of current African genomes are, in fact, Neanderthal. This is likely a result of the movement of early man from Europe to Africa, bringing the genetic material back. This is a very different model than the idea of early man leaving Africa and staying in Europe. It suggests less of a migration and more of a two-way flow of humans between the two geographic areas.
Another interesting discovery is the initial migration from Africa about 60,000 is not likely to have been the first as originally believed. Researchers now believe there may have been travel from Africa more than 200,000 years ago, leading to the addition of different genetic material to the Neanderthal genome well before what was previously believed.
To further add to the mystery, all current Neanderthal DNA is from a single source. The genome was found in a Siberian cave. It is very likely, according to paleoanthropologists, that other Neanderthal genomes are present in today's humans. These genomes may be responsible for many of the fossils of early hominins that are often confusing to researchers. They often include features or elements that are dissimilar to each other, demonstrating a greater variety in Neanderthals over time and in different locations.
The study of the human genome is constantly evolving. Genomelink provides you with the latest in information in learning about your ancestry. Use your raw DNA data to find out more about yourself, including your possible Neanderthal heritage.