Neanderthals, our closest extinct relatives, lived in western Eurasia from 400,000 years ago until they went extinct around 40,000 years ago. DNA retrieved from ancient specimens revealed that Neanderthals mated with modern human contemporaries. As a consequence, introgressed Neanderthal DNA survives scattered across the human genome such that 1–4% of the genome of present-day people outside Africa are inherited from Neanderthal ancestors. Patterns of Neanderthal introgressed genomic sequences suggest that Neanderthal alleles had distinct fates in the modern human genetic background. Some Neanderthal alleles facilitated human adaptation to new environments such as novel climate conditions, UV exposure levels and pathogens, while others had deleterious consequences. Here, we review the body of work on Neanderthal introgression over the past decade. We describe how evolutionary forces shaped the genomic landscape of Neanderthal introgression and highlight the impact of introgressed alleles on human biology and phenotypic variation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Neuroscience