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Todd Wood on claim that Neanderthals and modern humans did not interbreed


Recently, we ran a story, Neanderthals and modern humans did not interbreed, had common ancestor, and now Todd Wood offers,

When the original Neandertal genome paper came out, all the attention went to interbreeding to explain the similarity of Neandertal and Eurasian genes, and I think that was well justified. Since incomplete lineage sorting is a random process, I would not expect to see any modern human population significantly more similar to Neandertals than any other modern human population. Modern human populations diverged well after the Neandertal divergence, so whatever genes were still very similar to Neandertals should have been evenly divided. Even more interesting is the geography: the ancestors of the modern humans with Neandertal-like genes come from the same geographic region as the Neandertals. If incomplete lineage sorting is to blame for Neandertal-like genes in modern humans, that geographic pattern would just be a weird coincidence. That’s not to say that one couldn’t make a case for incomplete lineage sorting, but we would need some new evidence to really seal the deal (such as new samples of Eurasians that don’t have Neandertal-like genes or Africans that do).

According to Nature, PNAS was supposed to publish a new paper this week arguing for the incomplete lineage sorting model, which they did. The press have headlined these results as Neanderthal breeding idea doubted, Neanderthal-human similarities not due to mating, and Humans didn’t breed with Neanderthals. Reasons to Believe is going to have a field day. The new paper by Eriksson and Manica is largely a theoretical study, modelling what might have happened under a particular population divergence. …

Here’s the original interbreeding paper.


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