Genetic Analysis Solves Human-Neanderthal Interbreeding Puzzle
Human history more than matches the best soap operas and Hollywood thrillers. The latest blockbuster is a tale of sex and war on an epic scale but from an era that pre-dates conventional historical analysis. It comes from the world of anthropology where researchers are piecing together the twists and turns using the latest genome sequencing technologies and data analysis techniques — and changing the way we think about ourselves and our relationship to the world around us.
The story began last year when anthropologists announced that they had sequenced the Neanderthal genome for the first time. The announcement came with the bombshell that humans and Neanderthal share small fraction of their genes, between 1 and 4%. There was also a curious twist: not all humans have these Neanderthal genes. In fact, you can divide humanity in two by this measure. On the one hand there are humans from sub-Saharan Africa who have little Neanderthal DNA and on the other, there is the rest of us who do have it.