New Research Reveals Neanderthals May Have Been Wiped Out By Interbreeding With Early Humans

New research by German scientists suggests that Neanderthals may not have been killed off by early humans but may have contributed to their own demise instead by interbreeding with them.

According to the Daily Mail, after studying the fossilized remains of early humans, Neanderthals, and modern humans, scientists have concluded that Neanderthals may have mated themselves to death through interbreeding, incorporating their genes into modern humans today, as Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology explained.

“It means they were incorporated, which is why we see so many of their genes living on in modern Europeans. If we look at a few thousand genomes we can pick out 15,000 Neanderthal genes — so at least half their genome is walking around in people today.”

Neanderthals are believed to have been the evolutionary offspring of early humans who eventually departed from their homeland of Africa around 450,000 years ago. These Neanderthals grew in numbers all over Eurasia until they were finally replaced by modern humans around 30,000 years ago.

Studies which show that modern humans are carrying Neanderthal genes have prompted American scientists to delve deeper into learning more about the lasting influence that Neanderthals have on modern humans today. One of these studies was carried out by Michael McGregory of the US National Institute of Mental Health, who analyzed the genes of modern humans today and determined what their “NeanderScore” was.

Curiously, it was found that those who had the highest scores for this study were also much more likely to have skulls that were shaped like Neanderthals. It was also determined that Neanderthal genes are very much alive today in the general population.

Genetics testing companies like 23andMe have also gotten into the game of testing for Neanderthal genes and have shown that modern humans share two to three percent of their genes with this extinct branch of humanity. However, Professor Glenn Geher at SUNY notes, this is not an entirely positive thing, as the New York Post reported.

“High Neanderthal [gene] quotients tend to correspond to social fear and to autistic and depressive tendencies.”

Norwegian research attests to these health issues that modern humans may be suffering from today by linking Neanderthal genes with these diseases and illnesses. For instance, Ole Andreassen, who works at the Institute of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oslo in Norway, has said that links have been discovered between Neanderthal genes and humans that are carrying them today who suffer from problems like high cholesterol and even autism. It is also believed that the risks of tobacco addiction are greatly increased by these same genes.

So, we have now discovered that there do appear to be some risks associated with humans sharing genes with Neanderthals, and it probably wasn’t modern humans that killed them off after all. Instead, interbreeding with us may have been the thing that led to their eventual extinction.