African populations have been revealed to share Neanderthal ancestry for the first time, in findings that add a new twist to the tale of ancient humans and our closest known relatives.
Previously it was believed that only non-African populations carried Neanderthal genes due to interbreeding that took place after a major human migration out of Africa and across the globe about 60,000 years ago. The latest findings suggest human and Neanderthal lineages are more closely intertwined than once thought and point to far earlier interbreeding events, about 200,000 years ago.
“Our results show this history was much more interesting and there were many waves of dispersal out of Africa, some of which led to admixture between modern humans and Neanderthals that we see in the genomes of all living individuals today,” said Joshua Akey, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University and senior author of the research.
The study suggests living Europeans and Asians carry about 1 percent Neanderthal DNA, compared with on average 0.3 percent for those of African ancestry. Akey and colleagues believe that this Neanderthal DNA arrived in Africa with ancient Europeans whose ancestors — over many generations — had left Africa, met and mated with Neanderthals and then returned to Africa and mixed with local populations.
“An important aspect of our study is that it highlights humans, and hominins, were moving in and out of Africa for hundreds of thousands of years and occasionally admixing,” said Akey. “These back-to-Africa migrations, largely from ancestors of contemporary Europeans, carried Neanderthal sequences with them, and through admixture, contributed to the Neanderthal ancestry we detect in African individuals today.”
The increasingly fine-grained details of our ancestors’ migration patterns and intimate encounters with other types of human are coming into focus thanks to the advent of sophisticated computational genetics techniques. These statistical methods allow scientists to line up the Neanderthal genome side by side with that of ancient modern humans and DNA from different living populations and figure out whether the different lineages have been steadily diverging or whether there are blips where large chunks of DNA were exchanged at certain time points.
The latest comparison highlights previously unnoticed ancient human genes in the Neanderthal genome, apparently acquired from interbreeding events dating to about 200,000 years ago. This suggests an early group of humans travelled from Africa to Europe or Asia, where they encountered Neanderthal populations and left a faint imprint on their genome that could still be detected more than 100,000 years later.
The paper also highlights the relative lack of genetics research in African populations, despite modern humans having first emerged on the continent and despite African populations today being more diverse genetically than the inhabitants of the rest of the world combined. “To more fully understand human genomic variation and human evolutionary history, it is imperative to comprehensively sample individuals from all regions of the world, and Africa remains one of the most understudied regions,” said Akey.
It is not known whether all African populations, some of whose roots stretch into the deep past, share this Neanderthal heritage. KhoeSan (bushmen) and Mbuti (central African pygmy) populations, for instance, appear to have split off from other groups more than 100,000 years ago. The findings are published in the journal Cell.
A Google software engineer was suspended after going public with his claims of encountering “sentient” artificial intelligence on the company’s servers — spurring a debate about how and whether AI can achieve consciousness. Researchers say it’s an unfortunate distraction from more pressing issues in the industry. The engineer, Blake Lemoine, said he believed that Google’s AI chatbot was capable of expressing human emotion, and that the company would need to address the resulting ethical ramifications. Google put him on leave for sharing confidential information and said his concerns had no basis in fact — a view widely held in the AI
Disney’s latest animation film “Lightyear,” which features two women sharing a kiss, has been denied release in 14 Muslim-majority countries and regions, a source close to the company said. “Lightyear” is a spin-off of the popular Toy Story film series, serving as an origin story for the main character Buzz Lightyear. The film follows the legendary Space Ranger after he is marooned on a hostile planet alongside his commander and their crew. One scene depicts Buzz’s best friend Alisha Hawthorne kissing her wife. Walt Disney Co. has tried to navigate differing public and political attitudes on LGBTQ issues. However, some countries across
A netizen encountered “a” strange creature that looked like a cockroach but had “legs on its back.” She took a photograph of the creature, which she said made her feel nauseous, and posted it on the Internet, looking for answers about what it was. When other people online saw the photo, they could not help but laugh, as it turned out to be a huntsman spider ingesting a cockroach, not a “strange creature” at all. They strongly advised the original poster not to harm the “cockroach killer.” As it turns out, the original poster hadn’t recognized the “beneficial spider” and had
Musical ‘The Lion King’ is touring Taiwan again (1/3) 音樂劇《獅子王》再度來台巡演（一） A: The musical “The Lion King” is touring Taiwan. Do you want to go with me? B: OK. I’ve watched Disney’s animated film and also a live-action adaptation, but I’ve never seen the musical. A: The musical tells the story of the adventures of Prince Simba as a young lion. However, the live performance is stunning. B: The songs from the musical are really great. I especially love “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” I can’t wait for the live show. A: 音樂劇《獅子王》來台灣巡演了！你想要跟我去看嗎？ B: 好啊，我之前看過迪士尼的動畫版，還看過真人版電影，不過從來沒看過音樂劇。 A: 音樂劇也是關於獅子辛巴的冒險故事，不過現場演出更震撼。 B: 劇中的名曲都很好聽，我超愛《Circle of Life》、《Can You Feel the Love