Some of the human X chromosome originates from Neanderthals and is found exclusively in people outside Africa, according to an international team of researchers led by pediatrician Damian Labuda, who says, "This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred." His team places the timing of such intimate contacts and/or family ties early on, probably at the crossroads of the Middle East, meaning that many of us are hybrids!
Neanderthals, whose ancestors left Africa about 400,000 to 800,000 years ago, evolved in what is now mainly France, Spain, Germany and Russia, and are thought to have lived until about 30,000 years ago. Meanwhile, early modern humans left Africa about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago. The question on everyone’s mind has always been whether the physically stronger Neanderthals, who possessed the gene for language and may have played the flute, were a separate species or could have interbred with modern humans. The answer is yes, the two lived in close association.
Labuda thinks these exchanges may have contributed to our success across the world. He says, "Variability is very important for long-term survival of a species. Every addition to the genome can be enriching."
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