Genetic evidence of modern human DNA in a Neanderthal — Huh? Wha?

Using several different methods of DNA analysis, an international research team has found what they consider to be strong evidence of an interbreeding event between Neanderthals and modern humans that occurred tens of thousands of years earlier than any other such event previously documented.

…In NATURE the team publishes evidence of interbreeding that occurred an estimated 100,000 years ago. More specifically the scientists provide the first genetic evidence of a scenario in which early modern humans left the African continent and mixed with archaic (now-extinct) members of the human family prior to the migration “out of Africa” of the ancestors of present-day non-Africans, less than 65,000 years ago.

❝ “It’s been known for several years, following the first sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, that Neanderthals and humans must have interbred,” says Professor Adam Siepel, a co-team leader and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) quantitative biologist. “But the data so far refers to an event dating to around 47,000-65,000 years ago, around the time that human populations emigrated from Africa. The event we found appears considerably older than that event…”

❝ “One very interesting thing about our finding is that it shows a signal of breeding in the ‘opposite’ direction from that already known,” Siepel notes. “That is, we show human DNA in a Neanderthal genome, rather than Neanderthal DNA in human genomes.”

This finding, the result of several kinds of advanced computer modeling algorithms comparing complete genomes of hundreds of contemporary humans with complete and partial genomes of four archaic humans, has implications for our knowledge of human migration patterns.

The article proceeds from this point to examination of several intertwining themes of interbreeding between different strands of the evolutionary vines that tie us all to our species. A worthwhile read.

It also validates a theme long held as strong among my Highland antecedents – whether critical or not – that our species [and any near relative] is ready to have sex with anyone willing to stand still long enough to enjoy it.

Ancient Indian visitors to Australia may have brought dingoes

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A new study of DNA has found that Indian people may have come to Australia around 4000 years ago, an event possibly linked to the first appearance of the dingo.

Australia was first populated around 40,000 years ago and it was once thought Aboriginal Australians had limited contact with the outside world until the arrival of Europeans.

However, an international research team examining genotyping data from Aboriginal Australians, New Guineans, island Southeast Asians and Indians found ancient association between Australia, New Guinea, and the Mamanwa group from the Philippines.

“We also detect a signal indicative of substantial gene flow between the Indian populations and Australia well before European contact, contrary to the prevailing view that there was no contact between Australia and the rest of the world. We estimate this gene flow to have occurred during the Holocene, 4,230 years ago,” the researchers said…

“This is also approximately when changes in tool technology, food processing, and the dingo appear in the Australian archaeological record, suggesting that these may be related to the migration from India…”

Professor Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, said the research team’s discovery of “a previously unsuspected episode of gene flow with populations from mainland India, estimated to take place around 4,200 years ago… coincides with significant changes in the Aboriginal archaeological record, around 4000 to 5000 years ago.”

It does not necessarily indicate direct contact with mainland India. For example it could be via populations elsewhere whose original source was mainland India,” said Professor Cooper, who was not involved in the research…

“Australian people were, for tens of thousands of years, a part of the human population of the world exchanging both genes and cultural information with their neighbours.”

Our species has always been carriers of that awesome trait – curiosity. We always want to know what’s around the next bend in the road, over the next hill.

Thanks, Honeyman