posted on Jan, 31 2014 @ 02:23 PM
According to this report, some shared genes from Neanderthal include the skins ability to deal with UV light. Interestingly only non Africans share
any Neanderthal DNA and R1b Haplotype is also believed responsible for the light skin allele and is mostly prevalent in Western Europe, could there be
a connection to Neanderthal DNA and R1b Haplotype the cattle herding conquerers of Europe?
The magic number
Genome sequences harvested from Neanderthal bones have previously confirmed that the two groups mated, and that about 2% of the genomes of
people who descend from Europeans, Asians and other non-Africans is Neanderthal3, 4. The Neanderthal contributions are peppered across the genome, and
different people have different Neanderthal genes.
Research has indicated that some of these genes are involved in functions such as battling infections5, 6 and coping with ultraviolet
radiation7. But the latest studies are the first to identify a large proportion of the genome segments that humans inherited from
Both teams developed computational methods to identify segments of the human genome that were likely to have originated hundreds of thousands of years
in the past, yet entered the human gene pool far more recently. The teams then checked whether or not these segments were present in the actual
Neanderthal genome sequence to come up with a catalog of Neanderthal genes in humans.
Joshua Akey, a population geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle who wrote the Science paper with colleague Benjamin Vernot, says that
his team found about one-fifth of a Neanderthal genome spread across the publicly available genomes of 665 living Europeans and East Asians. Reich and
his team estimate that they could put together about 40% of the Neanderthal genome from the sequences of 1,004 living people that they studied.
The teams looked for Neanderthal genes that were especially common in contemporary humans, a sign that the genes were useful to their new
owners. Both groups identified a series of genes involved in the inner workings of cells called keratinocytes, which make up most of the outer layer
of human skin and produce hair.
“It’s tempting to speculate that Neanderthals were already adapted to colder environments in Eurasia” and that these genes helped modern humans
to cope after they arrived from Africa, says Reich. Akey points out that the skin helps to mediate moisture loss and protect against pathogens, and
Neanderthal genes that were already adapted to life in Europe and Asia would be helpful to H. sapiens in its new environment. These hypotheses are
speculative, the researchers say, and they agree that follow-up studies will be needed to determine how Neanderthal keratinocyte genes benefited
Both studies also discovered vast numbers of Neanderthal genes that none of the contemporary humans carried. “We find these gigantic holes in the
human genomes where there are no surviving Neanderthal lineages,” says Akey. This is a strong indication that the genes were harmful to
human–Neanderthal hybrids and their descendants, and were purged as the descendants continued to mate. “Most of these variations were removed in a
couple of dozen generations,” Reich says.
Akey’s team found that one large chunk of modern-human genome that bears no Neanderthal contributions is the one that encompasses the gene FOXP2,
which is involved in speech in humans.