By MARK PRIGG
PUBLISHED: 02:24 EST, 14 August 2012 | UPDATED: 03:21 EST, 14 August 2012
We may not, as previously thought, have a little bit of Neanderthal in us, scientists have revealed.
Similarities between the DNA of modern people and Neanderthals are more likely to have arisen from shared ancestry than interbreeding, a new study has found.
The team from the University of Cambridge published their new theory this week in PNAS journal.
Similarities between the DNA of modern people and Neanderthals are more likely to have arisen from shared ancestry than interbreeding, a study has found
Previously, it had been suggested that interbreeding was common, explaining our shared genome.
However, the newly published research proposes a different explanation.
Cambridge evolutionary biologists Dr Anders Eriksson and Dr Andrea Manica, found that the amount of DNA shared between modern Eurasian humans and Neanderthals – estimated at between 1-4% – actually comes from a common ancestor.
The pair used computer simulations to reassess the strength of evidence supporting hybridisation events.
They believe it can be explained if we both arose from a geographically isolated population, most likely in North Africa, which shared a common ancestor around 300-350 thousand years ago.
One group moved north to become ancestors of the Neanderthals, who emerged from an early migration from Africa into Eurasia.
The second group is believed to have moved south to become the ancestral population that gave rise to modern humans, Homo sapiens, which emerged from Africa about 70,000 years ago.
Cambridge evolutionary biologists Dr Anders Eriksson and Dr Andrea Manica used computer simulations to reassess the strength of evidence supporting how man evolved
‘To me the interbreeding question is not whether there was hybridisation but whether there was any hybridisation that affected the subsequent evolution of humans,’ Dr Manica said.
‘I think this is very, very unlikely.’
‘Our work shows clearly the patterns currently seen in the Neanderthal genome are not exceptional, and are in line with our expectations of what we would see without hybridisation.
‘So, if any hybridisation happened then it would have been minimal and much less than what people are claiming now,’ Dr Manica added.