African populations have been shown to have Neanderthal ancestry in their DNA for the first time, according to new research.
It was previously believed that only modern humans in Asia, Europe and America had inherited Neanderthal DNA due to interbreeding that took place after humans left Africa about 60,000 years ago.
Up until now, there had been little to no evidence of Neanderthal DNA in African populations.
Researchers at Princeton University in the US say they now have evidence of Neanderthal genomes in Africans.
Co-first author Lu Chen, a postdoctoral research associate, said: “This is the first time we can detect the actual signal of Neanderthal ancestry in Africans.
“And it surprisingly showed a higher level than we previously thought.”
One possible explanation is that Europeans who had previously mated with Neanderthals migrated back to Africa in the past 20,000 years.
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The researchers also found that non-Africans have more Neanderthal DNA than once thought.
When the Neanderthal genome was first sequenced, it was discovered that modern humans in Asia, Europe and America had inherited roughly 2% of their DNA from Neanderthals.
Image: A Neanderthal skull displayed at a museum in Paris
This proved that humans and Neanderthals had interbred after humans left Africa, but since then new methods have continued to catalogue ancestry.
In a study published in the journal Cell, the Princeton University team said their method, called IBDmix, allowed them to search both populations for their ancestry.
The method is able to distinguish shared ancestry from recent interbreeding.
Source : Sky News