Yes, they published this with a straight face. From ScienceDaily:
The Neanderthal genome included harmful mutations that made the hominids around 40 percent less reproductively fit than modern humans, according to new estimates. Non-African humans inherited some of this genetic burden when they interbred with Neanderthals, though much of it has been lost over time. The results suggest that these harmful gene variants continue to reduce the fitness of some populations today. The study also has implications for management of endangered species.
Some time or other, these people should meet up with the Population Bomb crowd. Will they mutually self-destruct?
Harris and Nielsen’s simulations also suggest that humans and Neanderthals mixed much more freely than originally thought. Today, Neanderthal sequences make up approximately 2% of the genome in people from non-African populations. But Harris and Nielsen estimate that at the time of interbreeding, closer to 10% of the human migrants’ genome would have been Neanderthal. Because there were around ten times more humans than Neanderthals, this number is consistent with the two groups acting as as single population that interbred at random. Recent DNA evidence has confirmed that the Neanderthal contribution to Eurasian genomes was higher in the past. Paper. (public access) – K. Harris, R. Nielsen. The Genetic Cost of Neanderthal Introgression. Genetics, 2016; DOI: 10.1534/genetics.116.186890 More.
So Neanderthals were not a “different species.”
See also: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
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