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WASHINGTON – We have met Neanderthal and he is us — at least a little. The most detailed look yet at the Neanderthal genome helps answer one of the most debated questions in anthropology: Did Neanderthals and modern humans mate? The answer is yes, there is at least some cave man biology in most of us. Between 1 percent and 4 percent of genes in people from Europe and Asia trace back to Neanderthals. "They live on, a little bit," says Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Implications for modern human origins. One model for modern human origins suggests that all present-day humans trace all their ancestry back to a small African population that expanded and replaced archaic forms of humans without admixture. Our analysis of the Neandertal genome may not be compatible with this view because Neandertals are on average closer to individuals in Eurasia than to individuals in Africa. Furthermore, individuals in Eurasia today carry regions in their genome that are closely related to those in Neandertals and distant from other present-day humans. The data suggest that between 1 and 4% of the genomes of people in Eurasia are derived from Neandertals.