RUMPY PUMPY: Bone says humans BONED Neanderthals 50,000 years B.C.
Hairy, saucy protohuman revelations
Boffins in Germany have extracted the oldest human DNA yet discovered – from a 45,000-year-old thigh bone found in Siberia.
And after studying the genetic goop, the researchers have concluded that humans started interbreeding with their Neanderthal cousins about 60,000 years ago.
'What a slut'
A team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig analyzed the bone, which was discovered in an eroding stream bank near Ust'-Ishim in western Siberia.
The bone belonged to one of the earliest male settlers in what is now Russia. It was found to contain about 2.3 per cent Neanderthal DNA, which is about what you find in modern humans and El Reg journalists.
Over time, the Neanderthal DNA segments in humans shorten as time passes. According to the scientists' paper in Nature, by measuring these DNA fragments, the team determined when and where humans and their squatter, hairier cousins were making the beast with two backs.
"The ancestors of the Ust'-Ishim individual mixed with Neanderthals approximately 7,000 to 13,000 years before this individual lived or about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, which is close to the time of the major expansion of modern humans out of Africa and the Middle East," said Janet Kelso, who led the computer-based analyses of the genome.
Besides showing that the slutty side of human behavior is nothing new, the find is also vital to scientists looking to discover how human populations grew and spread out. We all started in Africa, but how we spread out is still a matter of considerable speculation.
Findings suggest there were several migrations out of Africa in the past 100,000 years, with humans spreading east into Asia and north into Europe. But it wasn't an orderly progression: the Toba super-volcano explosion about 70,000 years ago would have wiped out any Asian human populations and decimated the total human species to as few as 1,000 breeding pairs.
Ust'-Ishim Man came along a lot later than this, and by matching the DNA found to other specimens recovered, the scientists believe the thigh bone's original owner was part of a group who colonized Siberia during a warm spell in Earth's history – back when we were still sharing the planet with other humanoid species.
"The population to which the Ust'-Ishim individual belonged may have split from the ancestors of present-day West Eurasian and East Eurasian populations before, or at about the same time, when these two first split from each other," said team leader Svante Pääbo.
"It is very satisfying that we now have a good genome not only from Neandertals and Denisovans, but also from a very early modern human." ®