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A Little Bit Neanderthal

Neanderthal ancestry appears to be more widespread than previously thought, turning up even in human populations of African ancestry, as GenomeWeb reports.

Previous research has estimated that about 2 percent of the DNA of non-Africans is Neanderthal in origin, and that people of African ancestry were thought to have little Neanderthal DNA, as much of this admixture occurred in human populations after they migrated out of Africa, as New Scientist notes.

In a new study appearing in Cell, researchers from Princeton University, the University of Washington, and Microsoft used a new approach called IBDMix to ascertain Neanderthal ancestry within individuals of Eurasian, American, or African ancestry from the 1,000 Genomes Project. They found that about 0.3 percent of the genomes of individuals of African ancestry came from Neanderthals. The researchers attributed this Neanderthal DNA among Africans to the back-migration of human populations that left Africa, interbred with Neanderthals, and later returned, likely from Europe, to Africa.

"This demonstrates the remnants of Neanderthal genomes survive in every modern human population studied to date," co-first author Lu Chen, a postdoc at Princeton, says in a statement.