Pacific islanders got a double whammy of Stone Age DNA | Science News

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Pacific islanders got a double whammy of Stone Age DNA

Melanesians only people known to inherit substantial DNA from both Neandertals, Denisovans

By
2:00pm, March 17, 2016
a Melanesian girl

HYBRID PAST  New research finds that present-day Melanesians, like this girl, have inherited substantial amounts of DNA from both Neandertals and Denisovans. That ancient DNA may be involved in important biological functions, such as metabolism and immunity.

Modern-day Melanesians carry a two-pronged genetic legacy of ancient interbreeding that still affects their health and well-being, researchers say.

Unlike people elsewhere in the world, these Pacific islanders possess nuclear DNA that they inherited from two Stone Age hominid populations, say population geneticist Benjamin Vernot, formerly of the University of Washington in Seattle, and his colleagues. At least some of that ancient DNA contains genes involved in important biological functions, the researchers find. Nuclear DNA is passed from both parents to their children.

The finding means that ancestors of people now living in the Bismarck Archipelago, a group of islands off Papua New Guinea’s northeastern coast, mated with Neandertals as well as with mysterious Neandertal relatives called Denisovans, the scientists conclude online March 17 in Science.

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