Understanding Human Evolution: Neanderthal DNA Contributes to Genetic Diversity

Human Neanderthal Concept

The advent of DNA sequencing has given scientists a clearer insight into the interconnectedness of evolution and the web-like path that different organisms take, splitting apart and coming back together. Tony Capra, associate professor of biological sciences, has come to new conclusions about the influence of Neanderthal DNA on some genetic traits of modern humans

The article “Neanderthal introgression reintroduced functional ancestral alleles lost in Eurasian populations” was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution on July 27, 2020.

The ancestors of all modern humans lived across the African continent, until approximately 100,000 years ago when a subset of humans decided to venture further afield. Neanderthals, an extinct relative of modern humans, had been longtime residents of Europe and central and south Asia; their ancestors had already migrated there 700,000 years previously. The humans who moved into central Asia and the Middle East encountered and reproduced with Neanderthals. Neanderthal DNA is present in some modern humans, and now research shows that can sometimes be a good thing.

“When Neanderthals split off from what became the human population 700,000 years ago, they took specific genetic variants along with them. Some of these genetic variants were later lost in human populations. We show that interbreeding with Neanderthals restored hundreds of thousands of previously lost genetic variants,” said Capra. “These reintroduced genetic variants are more likely to have positive effects than genetic variants unique to Neanderthals.”

In practice these reintroduced variants might have helped to regulate negative traits associated with Neanderthal DNA including autoimmune and neuropsychiatric diseases and addiction risk. Connecting how genetics alter risk is essential to understanding the function and development of disease.

“With this research we identify a unique set of very old genetic variants that predate Neanderthals, but that may have enabled segments of Neanderthal DNA to remain in the DNA of modern humans,” said David Rinker, the first author of this research and postdoctoral scholar in the Capra Lab. “Pinpointing when those alleles (i.e., variant forms of genes) originated along the human timeline offers an evolutionary perspective on which genetic variants keep modern humans healthy, and has broad implications for how disease risk factors have evolved.”

Capra’s lab worked with data from the 1000 Genomes Project and the Neanderthal Genome Project, two open initiatives that document genetic variation in detail. The researchers collaborated with Emily Hodges, assistant professor of biochemistry, to conduct a functional dissection of Neanderthal and human DNA to identify which variants have functional effects. “This analysis gives physical proof of our hypothesis,” noted Capra. “It serves as a blueprint for doing analyses of this kind on a larger scale because we’ve proved the effect of these reintroduced genetic variants on a molecular level.”

Reference: “Neanderthal introgression reintroduced functional ancestral alleles lost in Eurasian populations” by David C. Rinker, Corinne N. Simonti, Evonne McArthur, Douglas Shaw, Emily Hodges and John A. Capra, 27 July 2020, Nature Ecology & Evolution.
DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1261-z

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants T32EY021453, T32GM080178, K22CA184308, R01GM115836 and R35GM127087.

52 Comments on "Understanding Human Evolution: Neanderthal DNA Contributes to Genetic Diversity"

  1. Anson E. Long | August 5, 2020 at 5:29 pm | Reply

    The guy on the right in the above illustration seems surprised at the other guy’s appearance.

  2. Jeffery Agnew | August 5, 2020 at 8:53 pm | Reply

    What’s up with the racist art? It suggests none too subtly “white is more evolved”, and doesn’t represent what we know about neanderthal skin coloring as a population.

  3. The art is blatantly racist and misleading. Neanderthal came from Europe and were white. It’s a known fact that almost all Africans do not have traces of their DNA except through forced breeding via slavery or intermarriage. Institutional racism…

  4. Jerry Hernandez | August 5, 2020 at 10:04 pm | Reply

    This is ridiculous! Neanderthal was black? Sorry to disappoint but humans were probably blacker than Neanderthals. You should pull this and replace with a more scientific based depiction. This is outrageous.

  5. We don’t like white scientific anymore because they racist to the original black the of all humans. We have only one ancestry which Adam and eve. And all the the different colours of people today came from blacks people. And black people still produce different colours and different Shap of people. But this racist white scientific always thinks they are intelligent then any other human. If greatness black man and black women have no comparison. Stop that racist now. Humans didn’t involve in ape. Ape still exist in the forest of Africa but never change to humans. This shows that u white racist scientists are not intelligent but fools. Seen the truth but pretending. Black man remains the greatest of all by God gift. Racist

  6. Andrew Christopherson | August 5, 2020 at 11:05 pm | Reply

    I am inclined to agree with the other commentors. The graphic is extremely inappropriate and insensitive. Some my find it offensive.

  7. First off, to the ill-informed peanut gallery commenting before- evolution is not linear or progressive, it’s the measurement of CHANGE based on external factors, mutations and genetic drift. Evolved doesnt imply advanced, for the same reason theres no such thing as devolving. Calling something “more” evolved than something else mean more divergent from its original design. Showing a modern white person in comparison to the supposed Neanderthal is not racist or “implying whites are more evolved” or advanced, its an arbitrary example of how far genetic drift can alter the human image over the course of several million years. Thats a fair statement considering you know logically that neanderthals didn’t just spring out of the ground either- they drifted from another species of human, and probably not a white one. Second, in regards to skin color- you have no idea what skin color neanderthals had so why are you pitching a fit? Were you around? They’ve been dug up everywhere from spain, to northern europe, to the middle east and south west asia. Do you really think every neanderthal had lily white skin and red hair? As long as we’re speculating, they probably varied in several skin tones, just like homo sapiens. Pale skin is just one mutation that arose out of neanderthals, NOT more advanced, a genetic change. Seriously, think before you cry racist. Theres more than enough of that going around

  8. Neanderthal never was black or human and had larger brains than modern humans. They did not come from any where but Europe. It is forbidden knowledge that they were much more advanced and anyone who has none of their DNA is a different species and more primitive.

    • Oversensitive Illiterate morons. It’s like idiocracy the movie has hit the next level of reality. All people care about now is how they can get offended. I Bet most of you butt plugs didn’t even read the article. Yes God-created All life through Adam and eve… santa comes down my chimney every 25th (give or take a few years) and The Earth is flat. Do you guys ever feel like you are being lured by the dollar on a string? The outrage culture will get us to a place nobody wants to be. Get a thorough DNA test. We are all from africa.

      “This bih don’t know ’bout pangea”

  9. Adrian Ioan Droc | August 6, 2020 at 12:01 am | Reply

    Andy yet ZERO science, only fairytales based on theory (no case studies, no facts)… and when you think that some people actually believe such nonsense… sad!

  10. I love useyourbrain. The clarification is great.

  11. Thumbnail art is very racist. Remove it.

  12. Every human came from Adam and eve Black from Africa. They where no white skin on this planet. Any human form came from black people. White man is a new man. The white racist scientist are been feeded to fabrication lie to still keep the truth hidden. The problem is it was the black man greatest scientist who invented the white race by birth selection. Not cool weather changes or food habits no is lie. Why no one ever ask question why ape still exists but never change to humans. It’s time for the real original man black scientist get back to teach this brain washing white people with their racist mind. To tell them the real truth how the world work and how we invented them. Adam and eve the black man was created in the hands of almighty God. Not in the way we invented the white man from black man sperms true selection of birth

  13. Poor thumbnail pic…

  14. Neanderthals= Nephilims and they were white not blacks. No African have Neanderthal DNA in them. So your art doesn’t make sense.” Modern human” is the white race because black race was there since the creation of mankind but white race came later.

  15. I’m surprised by their choice of cover art to feature their article. I would have thought Liberals had changed the world enough to know that we don’t use images of black men to represent the extinct, primitive species and images of privileged white men to represent recent, later evolved species. It’s just a poor choice of illustration.

  16. Nathan M Carroll | August 6, 2020 at 6:55 am | Reply

    Actually you’re wrong. Black folks do have neanderthal blood dna in them. So do white people. It’s not a matter of skin color but evolution. No one is discounting that all homo sapiens came from Africa but why the argument about skin color? This article is showing that neanderthal dna exists in all human beings and it isn’t a bad thing. Furthermore, skin color is genetic variant that is brought about by your ancestors relative location on the planet 10000 years ago. White skin color says I need more Vit D and black skin color says I need less Vit D. It’s really said to see people argue about this and completely miss the point of the article. Shame on you

  17. Political correctness should not be passed off as science. Very misleading grophic on Neanderthal because they were white. I understand that the professors want us to feel one human race but they should not mislead. There are real differences in races that should be celebrated not hidden.

  18. Phyllis Horning | August 6, 2020 at 7:07 am | Reply

    Although the real issue is about DNA progression, you can see the educational and critical thinking skills we’re dealing with in the majority of these responders. All they can see is black to white, and the publisher tends to facilitate their bigotry. This is what charter schools have brought us to and in only one generation! We must return to real education, or we risk having a country full of children of the corn.

  19. Sick of casual racism | August 6, 2020 at 7:19 am | Reply

    Racist art. Read the article hoping there’d be a good reason for this art but nope— just your typical everyday racism. Time to take this news source out of my news feed.

  20. Guy from Europe | August 6, 2020 at 8:49 am | Reply

    Nobody have read the article but everybody is offended. Bunch of ignorant sjws, wimps and snowflakes

  21. I think the Neanderthal version is way handsome better looking than the human droid.

  22. What!!! Why does the Neanderthal have to t look African American? I’m not getting it. Are you saying that Black evolved into WHITE!!?

  23. Benjamin Hunt | August 6, 2020 at 10:29 am | Reply

    Poor choice of illustration. Yikes. Racial undertones galore

  24. Offended Black Scientist | August 6, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Reply

    I am a biomedical scientist and am black and I am deeply offended by the art in your article. It totally destroyed my appetite to read and appreciate your article. Shame on you. Racism is barbaric and opposite of the progressive thinking that we ought to have as scientists

  25. Larry Jason Hamilton | August 6, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Reply

    White people are Caucasian and people who are Caucasian are the only race that originated from neanderthals. As of yet science has been unable to prove we Caucasian peoples came from the north Antarctica to be exact. Once ice finally retreats we will see our homeland again. Eurasian peoples are the neanderthals we never came from apes great apes are african not neanderthals. We are created differently than all others. We are superior we conquered the whole planet many times over. Tests scores required to gain access to schools even to become police officers and other professionals lowered test requirements so minorities could begin to access careers that were traditionally all Caucasian. If its fact they say its racist the minorities claim Caucasian history is racist yet blacks depict our historic champions and leaders as BLACK LMAO. You cant just depict fake people as our greatest Caucasian leaders. Jesus even obama was half white. He would never had made it had he not been part neanderthal. Anytime in history we meet any different peoples it ends in war and we win as your modern world keeps pushing against us it will end in war. And we will win again.

    • Rational Intelligence | August 21, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Reply

      If you pay attention to the way that people think and act, you’ll notice that there are two very divergent types of modern human behavior. One behavior is very rational (understanding the consequences of actions), cooperative, egalitarian, has an interest in tools, and is very empathetic towards others. The other behavior is not as rational (people with this behavior have difficulty understanding the consequences of their actions), lacks the ability to create any thought of a personal wrong-doing or mistake, possesses a sense of superiority, is selfish, aggressive, competitive, has an interest in weapons, has an interest in materialistic possessions (art, jewelry, high fashion), is very social, practices social hierarchy, slavery, warfare, government, and religion. This behavior seems to originate in places where Neanderthals last lived: Siberia, the Middle East, and the Iberian Peninsula.

      If you try to trace the origins of the two divergent human behaviors, you’ll find one behavior (cooperative behavior) in a group that was farming near the Sea of Galilee (Ohalo II site) 23,000 years ago. The other behavior (competitive behavior) existed in Siberian mammoth hunters of the Mal’ta culture 24,000 years ago. You can trace this behavior even further back to the site of Sunghir Russia 34,000 years ago. The burial at Sunghir consisted of a man and a boy that died a violent death, contained rich grave goods of beads and weapons (spears) made from mammoth ivory. The physical features of the man buried at Sunghir are said to be very large, very similar to archaic hominids, Neanderthals.

      Then consider that there were remains of a man (Oase 1) found who lived 40,000 years ago and had up to 11 percent Neanderthal genome. The homeland of Indo-European languages is thought to be in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, not far from the Russian Samara culture of mammoth hunters who created the symbol of the swastika 15,000 years ago, and not far from the last place where Neanderthals survived. You can trace the migrations of aggressive, competitive people by following evidence of the swastika, by following evidence of slavery and warfare, by following evidence of Indo-European language, by following evidence of red hair, light skin, large features, and a prominent nose. It is very possible that all of these traits are associated with Neanderthal genes and Neanderthal culture.

      The first evidence of hunting tools, used by ancient hominids 400,000 years ago, was found in Germany. These tools were a set of sharpened wooden spears. Neanderthals used these weapons for hunting. Their hunting style required close quarter thrusting of sharp wooden spears to kill animals. Neanderthals would have to hunt in large groups to successfully hunt this way. This implies an aggressive behavior that lacks the ability to imagine the consequences of these actions (consequences of injury or death from killing in close conflict). If you look at the style of warfare used by invading Indo-European armies, a prime example is the army which invaded ancient Sumeria, they use a style of warfare that is similar to the hunting style used by Neanderthals. The Indo-Europeans would invade in large groups using sharp wooden spears. This style of warfare is called a phalanx, it was used during the First Dynasty of Ur in Sumeria, and was first used as a hunting strategy by very ancient Neanderthals in Europe and Siberia over 400,000 years ago. This style of warfare was eventually defeated by Afro-Asiatic archers who hunted and fought with the bow and arrow.

      So the idea of Neanderthals as an extinct species may not be completely true. More likely, Homo Sapiens have been ruled by aggressive Neanderthal hybrids for millennia. The behavioral traits of Neanderthals, perhaps even the language of Neanderthals, may have been spread throughout the world. Aggressive and irrational traits of Neanderthals, in people who retain these behavioral traits, may have contributed to the extreme success of some groups of human beings. And Neanderthals may have also contributed to the Indo-European language.

      Success can be gained through deception, aggressive behavior, and irrational beliefs in one’s own superiority. But success gained by this behavior is nothing to be admired.

  26. Shappiro or Shapiro very Jewish last name,I wander about the writer motives about this article.

  27. there was a great war in the heavens were Michael and his angels battled against the devil and his angels and Satan was cast to the Earth where he went to pursue a woman who’s the bear the seed but he cannot hurt her or whom she was made up of so he went to receive the rest of your offspring and these are evil angels that bread with women in their called nephilim he’s Angels bread with women of Earth attempting to make an army to fight against the Lord of Heaven

  28. These comments are so strange. Who cares about the picture? You have a picture of a Sub-Saharan homo sapien on the left and a Neanderthal on the right. Big deal. Read the article.

  29. So basically it’s DNA from fallen Angels not neanderthal. They bred with Earth’s women attempting to make superhuman baby so they could fight a war with the Lord of Heaven which we all know Jesus Christ conquerors Satan in the end

  30. SLOW DOWN. Early anatomically modern humans in Europe were dark skinned. Neanderthals are likely to have been light skinned however, because the earliest human ancestors had white skin under their fur, like chimpanzees, our closest living relative. Big deal.

  31. scott britton | August 6, 2020 at 2:57 pm | Reply

    I see two divergent but individually unique creatures. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The article is about science. The explanation about genetic drift in human DNA might be true in some sense. But DNA has proofreading capacity so that such drift would likely not produce major differences in characteristics. It is all speculation. Evolution is proven in real time only is simple viruses. The idea that genes come from accidental encounters and chance alone is an improbability. No amount of speculation will change that. Best to stick with what can be observed and repeated. Good science, and leave the guessing to fiction writers.

  32. The picture hurt my feelings. My sensitivity has been affected. So much racism in one photo, Save the whales! Save the trees! Save the yellow nosed button frogs! Save me, please!

  33. As usual, the only thing people pick out of any article, photo or marketing add…… Always crying racism, always trying to put white people down or complain about nothing. So exhausting, enjoy the article, stop looking at the pictures like your 6 years old. AND…. If you don’t like the article, DON’T READ IT

  34. Neither black or white were “first” or more superior. After some research though… one will find that first humans were tan and really black skin and really white skin are simply mutations in different directions. Apes are not what they used to be, birds are not what they used to be, humans are not what they used to be. Playing the blame game or saying you or your “race” is better/superior/first does not make you the better person. Do you think God wants you to fight against others or rather get to know and find the common ground with those who appear differently from you? Consciousness is all the same. Not just between all humans but between all things, the whole universe. Evil can live in anyone and anything. It lives in those who fear, blame, accuse, put themselves first, the list goes on. It does not make the person evil. We all need to fight our individual battles in order to find peace, first amongst ourselves and amongst others. I pray all the people here who are sensitive about their race will find confidence in themselves not by putting others down but by battling their own insecurities and demons developed through generations of bullying. End the pattern with you. Let’s do well, pray and wish eachother peace and joy in life. To raise a good family and stop the evilness within us trying to separate us. You have his word that you will be safe- meditate and speak with him yourself through your dreams. The answers are within. Amen

  35. The thumbnail art is very deceptive. It leads one to think Neanderthals were dark skinned, and whites evolved from this sub-human group to become superior. This is very untrue and lends itself to the divisive social congnition ppl unconsciously adopt. It detracts from the facts you’re trying to communicate. Do better.

  36. The guy on the left looks like LeBron…j/s

  37. LoveItLikeLyle | August 7, 2020 at 11:00 am | Reply

    Mutulu – I hope english isn’t your first language.

  38. Half of these commenters need to grow up and act like a civilized adult, and the other 47 percent should get a life

  39. Vennie Thompson | August 8, 2020 at 2:54 am | Reply

    The picture of the primative looking black man is absurd. Pure Homo Sapiens Sapiens is black skinned and brown eyes with kinky curled black hair. Blue and green eyes, red and blond hair and shades up from black toward white skin have all been demonstrated from genetic comparison of Neanderthalic bone with that of Homo Gracialis, to depend entirely from Neanderthal lineage. Pure Homo Gracialis is black. Period.

  40. Neanderthal lives matter!

  41. Why does photo show a white Anglo human and a dark slackjawed Neanderthal? Humans lived in Africa almost exclusively while Neanderthals occupied Europe.

    Seems obviously racist.

  42. What is with all the comments about race? It never occurred to me that the study was about proving black people are closer to the Neanderthal than are white people. Ridiculous notion! These people that see everything in terms of race are the real bigots. They are ignorant racists who feel guilty about it so they accuse everyone else. They are projecting their racism to everything they see.

  43. My people came fully formed and developed. No evolution needed. Besides. Look at the lips… Lol stop reading into everything. After ALL these hundreds of years they’re STILL guessing.

  44. Prince Architect | August 11, 2020 at 7:20 pm | Reply

    @Useyourbrain said, in part “Second, in regards to skin color- you have no idea what skin color neanderthals had so why are you pitching a fit? Were you around? They’ve been dug up everywhere from spain, to northern europe, to the middle east and south west asia. Do you really think every neanderthal had lily white skin and red hair? As long as we’re speculating, they probably varied in several skin tones, just like homo sapiens. Pale skin is just one mutation that arose out of neanderthals, NOT more advanced, a genetic change. Seriously, think before you cry racist. Theres more than enough of that going around.”

    First of all @useyourbrain we don’t need to be around to know if something was true for example we didn’t have to be around to know that Abraham Lincoln was an American President, but since you ignorantly said we have no what skin color neanderthals had allow me to use my brain in combating that logic.

    Every human being on earth have Melanin and Melanocyte. Melanin is a broad term for a group of natural pigments found in most organisms (arachnids are one of the few groups in which it has not been detected). Melanin is produced by the oxidation of the amino acid tyrosine, followed by polymerization. The pigment is produced in a specialized group of ligaments and tissues known as melanocytes.

    There are three basic types of melanin: eumelanin, pheomelanin, and neuromelanin. The most common is eumelanin, of which there are two types”brown eumelanin and black eumelanin. Pheomelanin is a cysteine-containing red polymer of benzothiazine units largely responsible for red hair, among other pigmentation. Neuromelanin is found in the brain, though its function remains obscure.

    In the skin, melanogenesis occurs after exposure to UV radiation, causing the skin to visibly tan. Melanin is an effective absorber of light; the pigment is able to dissipate over 99.9% of absorbed UV radiation. Because of this property, melanin is thought to protect skin cells from UVB radiation damage, reducing the risk of cancer. Furthermore, though exposure to UV radiation is associated with increased risk of malignant melanoma, a cancer of the melanocytes, studies have shown a lower incidence for skin cancer in individuals with more concentrated melanin, i.e. darker skin tone.

    Now lets look at Melanocyte which are melanin-producing cells located in the bottom layer (the stratum basale) of the skin’s epidermis, the middle layer of the eye (the uvea), the inner ear, meninges, bones, and heart. Melanin is the pigment primarily responsible for skin color. Once synthesised, melanin is contained in a special organelle called a melanosome and moved along arm-like structures called dendrites, so as to reach the keratinocytes.

    Through a process called melanogenesis, these cells produce melanin, which is a pigment found in the skin, eyes, and hair. This melanogenesis leads to a long-lasting pigmentation, which is in contrast to the pigmentation that originates from oxidation of already-existing melanin.

    The difference in skin color between lightly and darkly pigmented individuals is due not to the number (quantity) of melanocytes in their skin, but to the melanocytes’ level of activity (quantity and relative amounts of eumelanin and pheomelanin). This process is under hormonal control, including the MSH and ACTH peptides that are produced from the precursor proopiomelanocortin. People with oculocutaneous albinism typically have a very low level of melanin production.

  45. The illustration shows the neanderthal as black and the homo sapiens as white. The artist chose to portray them this way. Why? We don’t know the skin colour of neanderthals and we do know that not all homo sapiens are white. There is no justification for this.

  46. Lol. Horribly inaccurate picture. Neanderthals were in Europe for hundreds of thousands of years. Humans only a few tens of thousands and we’ve gotten quite pale. Neanderthals would have been very pale with red and platinum blonde hair. I suspect the folks who put this article together are racist

  47. Wow, the funny thing is the people put up a Neanderthal that looked kind of Black when it’s the DNA of Neanderthals that makes people non Black.
    “Researchers believe that darker skin and hair color came from the human gene lines, where as genes yielding red or blonde hair and lighter skin complexion came from Neanderthals. Perhaps that explains like regions such as Scotland and Scandinavia where Neanderthals are believed to have survived the longest have the highest rates of red or blond hair and fair skin.” – See more at: http://www.dailytech.com/NeanderthalHuman+Breeding+Was+Hard+But+Yielded+Benefits/article34236.htm#sthash.RCkAUAb6.dpuf

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.