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April 24, 2020


New research from the University at Buffalo and the Foundation for Research and Technology in Greece adds to growing evidence that our ancestors interbred with Neanderthals more often than we thought.

Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions

Prehistoric social network.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

In recent years, scientists have uncovered evidence that modern humans and Neanderthals share a tangled past. A new study led by the University at Buffalo adds to growing evidence that these two species interbred not just once, but multiple times.

The team analyzed the DNA of hundreds of people of Eurasian ancestry, looking for bits of genetic material that could be traced back to Neanderthals -- a human-like species that went extinct about forty thousand years ago. They discovered genetic segments linked to Neanderthal remains in Siberia. Noteworthy, because past research has shown that Neanderthals connected to Croatia -- thousands of miles from Siberia -- have also contributed DNA to modern-day Eurasians.

Here's the team's thinking: (Sound effect: small group of hominids in bg) You've got archaic hominin populations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. As the ancestors of modern humans in Africa expand to other areas, they run into these folks -- including Neanderthals -- in different parts of the world and, in at least a few cases, produce offspring with them.

This new research and other studies are providing new perspectives on understanding human evolution. As more is learned about the genetics of ancient hominins, the story may continue to change. Like most human relationships, it's complicated.

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