DNA from interbreeding may have helped people adjust to new environment
Fat metabolism genes inherited from Neandertals may have helped Stone Age humans survive in Europe around the time when cave lions and saber-toothed cats ranged the continent.
Remnants of these genetic gifts pop up in the genomes of modern-day Europeans and appear to tweak fat levels in their brains, researchers report April 1 in Nature Communications.
The findings are the latest in a string of studies trying to suss out the role Neandertal ancestry might have played in human evolution (SN: 3/8/14, p. 12).
Each newly discovered Neandertal detail — about their hair, skin, pigmentation and now fat metabolism — reshapes scientists’ view of the ancient hominids, says paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin&ndash