A study published in Science Advances has expanded the understanding of Neanderthal DNA within human populations across Europe and Asia. Neanderthal DNA is a fractional segment of the genetic makeup of most present-day humans, resulting from ancient interbreeding between the forebears and Stone Age hominins approximately 40,000 years ago. East Asian populations exhibit a slightly heightened prevalence of Neanderthal DNA compared to other regions, a phenomenon that has long puzzled scientists. On average, Neanderthal DNA accounts for about 2% of Eurasian genetic composition, rising to 4% in East Asia. The study, conducted by Mathias Currat and colleagues, scrutinized the distribution of Neanderthal DNA within human genomes over the past 40,000 years, marking a substantial stride towards accurately delineating the proportion of Neanderthal DNA in our prehistoric genetic makeup.

A new study in Cell has revealed a heightened prevalence of Neanderthal ancestry in modern Africans and Europeans, challenging previous assumptions. Around 60,000 years ago, early humans migrated out of Africa, encountering diverse hominins. Neanderthals roamed Europe and the Middle East, while Denisovans established their presence in Asia. Interbreeding between these groups often left genetic imprints that persist in many populations today. Europeans and Asians carry about 2% Neanderthal DNA, while Asians also possess additional Denisovan DNA, with up to 6% in Melanesians. Modern African populations harbor more fragments of Neanderthal DNA than previously estimated, approximately a third of what has been identified in Europeans and Asians. This discovery highlights a more complex narrative of human migration and genetic exchange, advancing the understanding of human evolution and genetic heritage.