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Neanderthals And The Human Genome Essay

881 words - 4 pages

In light of the genetic revolution in biology, scientists can now identify neanderthal ancestry within the human genome. Utilizing the tools and techniques in the “Neanderthal Ancestry Estimator”, the company 23andMe recorded 1-4% of modern humans are of neanderthal descent in 2012. This modern evidence leads to some ancient debates regarding what happened when neanderthals and early humans coexisted some 45,000 years ago. There are several hypotheses under scrutiny including the idea that Homo sapiens outcompeted they’re neanderthalian relatives or that they coexisted, Homo neanderthalensis becoming absorbed into Homo sapiens over a short interbreeding-intense period or over a longer time ...view middle of the document...

Interbreeding accounts for Homo sapiens acquisition of immunity traits that were non-specific to humans, but rather, to neanderthals. Hybridization in west Asia between humans and Denisovans (neanderthal’s sister group) lent the human population a new allele to the polymorphic HLA region in the immune system (Abi-Rached, 2011). Analysis of population history suggests that interbreeding occurred between many hominin groups, evidence arising in many modern genomes (Prufer, 2013).
Utilizing sources such as Biology Workbench allows users to form their own thoughts on debates such as this. Biology Workbench’s phylogenetic tree tool allows its user to analyze DNA evidence in a clear visual, pointing out the obvious resemblance between different groups of modern humans, groupings of neanderthals, and modern primates as well as presenting some not-so-obvious affiliations. When using this tool, I took particular note of the distinction between two groupings of neanderthal DNA and their closeness to humans in Ancient China. Humans in West Africa split earlier than humans in other geographical areas which fit the displacement model well, however, many of the human European and Asian sequences appeared much farther from the neanderthal groupings than expected.
To the best of my belief, the evidence supporting hybridization greatly over steps any other working hypothesis, therefore accepting my initial claim. However, other contributing factors do provide us with a grasp on how difficult interbreeding may have been, including, but not limited to, social structure within the different populations, geographical, and climatic obstacles (Manica, 2012). These insights, however, do not definitively pull hybridization off the table. Observations of potential scenarios only provide more considerations to include in the analysis of current evidence.


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