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Did humans and Neanderthals interbreed? © Alamy

Did humans and Neanderthals interbreed?

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Homo Neanderthalensis may have gone extinct, but a part of them still lives on inside our DNA.

Asked by: Benjamin Hatch, Leeds

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Yes, and more than once! DNA analysis suggests that the earliest encounter between the two species was 100,000 years ago, just as the earliest wave of Homo sapiens was migrating out of Africa. They met Neanderthals moving eastwards from Europe to Asia and swapped genes. Later interbreeding periods happened 55,000 and 40,000 years ago, and each time we acquired some Neanderthal genes. Unless you are of sub-Saharan descent, your genome contains 1-4 per cent Neanderthal DNA.

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Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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