It has long been known that modern humans carry a certain proportion of Neanderthals in their genes. Studies show that between one and four percent of our genome comes from the slightly different human species. At least when our ancestors emigrated from Africa, as is the case with most Europeans.
However, what these genes do to us has so far been a mystery. The emphasis is on
so far. Because now a research group with the participation of various renowned institutes has succeeded in assigning these genes to specific characteristics.
It is clear, then, that the Neanderthal remains in our genome are by no means silent spectators. But what does that mean in concrete terms (via Cornell.edu)?
What characteristics do we have from Neanderthals?
To find out, the researchers first looked at a dataset from the British Biobank containing 300,000 unrelated white Britons (of non-African descent). After detailed analysis, it was concluded that more than 235,000 genetic variants are highly likely to have come from Neanderthals.
4.303 of these differences in the DNA play an essential role in modern humans and therefore influence 47 different genetic traits.
Among them, for example, how fast someone burns calories or the natural immune resistance a person against certain diseases. In general, the genes of the Neanderthals influence our development as well as the entire metabolism and the immune system.
That is the aim of the research
Lead researcher Sriram Sankararaman commented on the results as follows:
For scientists studying human evolution and wanting to understand how interbreeding with archaic humans tens of thousands of years ago shaped the biology of many of today’s humans, this study may fill in some gaps. […] More broadly, our findings may also provide new insights for evolutionary biologists concerned with how the echo of these types of events can have both beneficial and detrimental consequences.
Despite the influence of Neanderthal genes on modern humans, scientists have found that these are slowly being pushed back. That means our DNA is gradually gaining the upper hand.
How do you like that? Did you already know that Neanderthal DNA is still so influential, or is this new to you? Write it to us in the comments!