A jawbone belonging to a man living 40,000 years ago, unearthed in Romania provided a surprise finding to international scientists.
Found in the Pestera cu Oase area in Romania, the jawbone provided evidence that Neanderthal ancestry was 11 percent present in this individual. For the scientific community, that is a stepping stone for shedding more light on Neolithic Europe.
David Reich of the Harvard Medical School stated that 11 percent of this man’s genome was found to come from Neanderthals, proving that interbreeding was common in more recent periods than previously thought.
Genome analysis on the 40,000-year old jawbone revealed that the man had a Neanderthal relative dating back to as much as four generations. Understandably, this finding pinpoints the fact that our own species, migrating to Europe was interbreeding with the native Neanderthals.
In light of this finding, the boggling issue of defining whether Neanderthals became extinct as a species or were overtook into the modern human species remains open.
Author of the study revealing these findings, Svante Pääbo, commented:
“Some Neanderthals clearly became incorporated in modern human societies. It is still unclear exactly how much of the complete Neanderthal genome exists today in people, but it seems to approach something like 40 percent.”
That is to say Neanderthals went extinct as a distinct species approximately 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. But before their disappearance as a distinct group, they interbred with the humans coming to Europe at the time. How did the interbreeding occur still remains an open question.
Nonetheless, the European interbreeding did not affect later population. The man found in Romania’s Pestera cu Oase, named by scientists “Oase 1” did not leave a mark on modern humans.
The population he is representative of seems to have disappeared as the Neanderthals, without leaving any traces behind. Still, due to his Neanderthalian genomes, Oase 1’s jawbone indicates that he shares a quite a number of alleles with modern Native Americans, as well as East Asians.
These present day populations have 20 percent more Neanderthalian genomes than other population. The percentage could be indicative of the interbreeding of East Asians ancestor population.
Milfor Wolpoff of the University of Michigan’s Department of Anthropology welcomed the international study as it certainly fits a new paradigm for understanding Neolithic Europe and its populations.
The study on Oase 1’s jawbone was published in the Nature journal.
Image Source: bp.blogspot.com