Stone Age people’s mating with now-extinct species had genetic pros and cons
Humans appear to have inherited some traits related to skin, hair and some autoimmune diseases from Neandertal ancestors.
Two independent investigations identify for the first time the specific parts of the human genome that appear to have been most affected by Stone Age interbreeding with Neandertals. They locate part of Neandertals’ legacy in sections of present-day Europeans’ and East Asians’ DNA that are stocked with genes influencing the production of keratin, a key substance in skin, hair and nails. By occasionally mating with Neandertals after leaving Africa around 70,000 years ago, Stone Age humans inherited and retained keratin-related genes that must have aided survival outside Africa, propose computational geneticist Sriram Sankararaman of Harvard Medical School in Boston and his colleagues in the Jan. 30 Nature.