Did humans and Neanderthals interbreed? © Alamy

Did humans and Neanderthals interbreed?

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

Asked by: Benjamin Hatch, Leeds

Advertisement

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.


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.