Technology and Science

Europeans are closer to Neanderthals than Africans are: Ancient DNA in humans is due to species interbreeding after man left Africa

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  • Breeding with Neanderthals has long been known to have left its traces in the DNA of modern Europeans
  • Now scientists in Edinburgh have confirmed that the genetic similarity between the two must have arisen after interbreeding in Europe and Asia
  • They believe two per cent of neanderthal DNA which exists in people today came from the mating outside of Africa

By Ellie Zolfagharifard

Europeans may be closer to their Neanderthal cousins than previously thought, new research suggests.

Breeding with Neanderthals has long been known to have left its traces in the DNA of modern Europeans.

Scientists in Edinburgh have now confirmed that the genetic similarity between the two must have arisen after interbreeding in Europe and Asia, before our ancestors spread across the globe.

Previous research speculated that modern Europeans and Asians are related to neanderthals because they originated from a similar sub-population in Africa.

Both groups evolved from a common ancestor in Africa before spreading to other parts of the world.
The two groups emerged at different times with neanderthals leaving the African continent more than 200,000 years before humans did.

Now scientists at the University of Edinburgh and Wageningen University found the species mated in Europe and Asia thousands of years ago.

Neanderthal groups (skull, pictured) are believed to have been small and relatively isolated, which meant a natural emotional focus on close internal relationships

Neanderthal groups (skull, pictured) are believed to have been small and relatively isolated, which meant a natural emotional focus on close internal relationships

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