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November 1 2012

The Real Question: Who Didn't Have Sex with Neanderthals?


The only modern humans whose ancestors did not interbreed with Neanderthals are apparently sub-Saharan Africans, researchers say.

New findings suggest modern North Africans carry genetic traces from Neanderthals, modern humanity's closest known extinct relatives.

Although modern humans are the only surviving members of the human lineage, others once roamed the Earth, including the Neanderthals. Genetic analysis of these extinct lineagesí fossils has revealed they once interbred with our ancestors, with recent estimates suggesting that Neanderthal DNA made up 1 percent to 4 percent of modern Eurasian genomes. Although this sex apparently only rarely produced offspring, this mixing was enough to endow some people with the robust immune systems they enjoy today.

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