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Human DNA found in a Neandertal woman

Mingling of genes pushes timeline of human-Neandertal mating back to 110,000 years ago

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1:00pm, February 17, 2016
toe bone

TOE-TO-TOE  A 50,000-year-old Neandertal toe bone contains evidence that humans left a genetic mark on Neandertal DNA.

Humans and Neandertals may have hooked up much earlier than previously thought.

Early ancestors of humans in Africa interbred with Neandertals about 110,000 years ago, an international group of researchers reports online February 17 in Nature. That genetic mixing left its mark on the DNA of a Siberian Neandertal, the researchers have discovered. While many humans today carry bits of Neandertal DNA, this is the first time human DNA has been found embedded in a Neandertal’s genes.

If the finding is correct, it indicates that the relationship between humans and Neandertals goes further back and is more complicated than scientists supposed, says Sarah Tishkoff, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the study.

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