Our ancestors were not Neanderthals

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The Independent Online

A rib bone taken from a Neanderthal child has proven that these early humans died out about 29,000 years ago without interbreeding with the ancestors of modern man.

A rib bone taken from a Neanderthal child has proven that these early humans died out about 29,000 years ago without interbreeding with the ancestors of modern man.

Scientists analysed DNA from the bone of a Neanderthal baby and found that it differs too much from the DNA of modern humans to be from a direct relation. Instead, Neanderthals are distant cousins who evolved separately from Homo sapiens before becoming extinct.

A team of Russian and British scientists extracted the DNA from the rib of a Neanderthal baby who was buried in the Mezmaiskaya cave of the northern Caucasus.

Radiocarbon dating confirms that the child died 29,000 years ago, so it must have been a member of one of the last bands of Neanderthals to survive in Europe.

Will Goodwin, a DNA analyst from Glasgow University, said the child's genetic material was extracted from the mitochondria - the tiny "power stations" of the cell - which are inherited from the mother.

There was a 7 per cent difference between the Neanderthal DNA and the DNA of modern humans, compared to a 3.5 per cent difference between the Neanderthal child and the only other Neanderthal whose DNA has been analysed, a specimen uncovered in Germany which is believed to be about 40,000 years old.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, support the "out of Africa" theory of human evolution, which says that Homo sapiens emerged from its African homeland about 100,000 years ago and migrated across the globe, replacing existing human species.

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