London: Neanderthals had sex with modern humans across the species barrier, claims a leading geneticist.
Using DNA retrieved from fossils, Professor Svante Paabo, director of genetics at the renowned Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, will soon publish his analysis of the entire Neanderthal genome.
Through the study, he hopes to compare it with the genomes of modern humans and chimpanzees to work out the ancestry of all three species, reports The Times.
About 40,000 years ago, modern humans arrived in Europe from Africa to find Neanderthals already living there. The two species then co-existed for 10,000-12,000 years before Neanderthals died out.
Recently Paabo told a conference at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory near New York that he’s convinced the two species had sex, however, how “productive” it was is still a question.
“What I’m really interested in is, did we have children back then and did those children contribute to our variation today?” he said.
“I’m sure that they had sex, but did it give offspring that contributed to us? We will be able to answer quite rigorously with the new (Neanderthal genome) sequence,” the expert added.