“Our approach can distinguish between two subtly different scenarios that could explain the genetic similarities shared by Neandertals and modern humans from Europe and Asia,” said study co-author Konrad Lohse, a population geneticist at the University of Edinburgh. The first scenario is that Neandertals occasionally interbred with modern humans after they migrated out of Africa. The alternative scenario is that the humans who left Africa evolved from the same ancestral subpopulation that had previously given rise to the Neandertals.
Many researchers argue the interbreeding scenario is more likely, because it fits the genetic patterns seen in studies that compared genomes from many modern humans. But the new approach completely rules out the alternative scenario without requiring all the extra data, by using only the information from one genome each of several types: Neandertal, European/Asian, African and chimpanzee.
See also: Neanderthal man discovers denim
Note: I’ll shortly be starting a series on human evolution over at Evolution News & Views on human evolution, including Neanderthals. I’ll be examining the evidence (real and imagined) gathered over the last decade, for a fully natural origin of the human race. Stay tuned. – O’Leary for News
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