Reconstruction of what a Neanderthal may have looked like in the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany

The Widespread Appearance of Neanderthal DNA: Africans Have It Too

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Up until M. Gallego Llorente’s Mota man article and the Haber article, researchers claimed that Africans had no relationship to the Neanderthals. But Prufer et al found that the Khoisan share more alleles with Altaic Neanderthal than Denisova.

Earlier depiction of a Neanderthal.

Earlier depiction of a Neanderthal. ( paleolithicpersonhood)

Haber has noted that derived DNA in all non-Africans is more closely related to Neanderthals from the Caucasus: Alraic Neanderthal(s).

In the Supplemental section of Prufer et al’s work, there is considerable discussion of the relationship between Neanderthal and Khoisan. In relation to the Altaic Neanderthal, non-Africans have a lower divergence rate than Africans - between 10-20%. Prufer et al (2013) note little statistical difference between non-African and African divergence.

An interesting finding made by Prufer et al (2013) was that Altaic Neanderthal and Denisova are estimated to have similar split times. However, the divergence estimates for African Khoisan-Mandekan and Altaic is younger than the split between Africans and Denisova archaic individuals and modern African individuals. The split times between the Khoisan and Mandekan may be explained by the presence of AF-24 haplotype in West Africa.

Khoisan engaged in roasting grasshoppers on grills. 1805. Aquatint by Samuel Daniell.

Khoisan engaged in roasting grasshoppers on grills. 1805. Aquatint by Samuel Daniell. ( Public Domain )

Prufer et al (2013) detected a relationship between Neanderthals and the Mandekan. This is not surprising now that we know the Mandekan have 2% Eurasian ancestry, according to Pickerell et al.

In summary, diverse African populations carry Eurasian ancestry. As a result, researchers will probably find more Africans that carry Neanderthal ancestry in the future.

Top Image: Reconstruction of what a Neanderthal may have looked like in the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany. Source: כ.אלון/ CC BY SA 3.0

By Clyde Winters


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I suspect that races flowed back and forth mating along the way as ice ages, droughts and the like came and went. Not really a surprise that Neanderthals would be part of the mix.

Clyde Winters's picture

Granted Hawks may have felt the Neanderthals mixed with AMH, but the Max Plank Institute popularized the idea that only non-Africans carried Neanderthal genes.

The Max Plank Institute noted on its website that: “We knew from Neanderthal DNA found in the genomes of humans outside Africa that Neanderthals and humans have interbred. This interbreeding is estimated to have happened less than 65,000 years ago, around the time that modern human populations spread across Eurasia from Africa. We now find evidence for a modern human contribution to the Neanderthal genome. This is likely the result of much earlier interbreeding”, says Sergi Castellano from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

No one in the know has ever stated there was no Neanderthal genetics on African populations. To quote Neanderthal expert John Hawks on Neanderthals in Africa: "We don't know if it's zero but it's much less" [than non Africans].
Of course, he is talking about Sub Saharan Africans and not those Africans living north of the Sahara who have about the same distribution of Neanderthal genes as the rest of us.

It is good however to see you finally joining the rest of the Anthropological community though. It wasn't too long ago that you flat out denied that humans and Neanderthals ever interbred at all.

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