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Neandertal Legacy

February 15, 2016

Neandertals contributed to genetic risk factors for some of today’s health problems and even mood disorders in people of European and Asian descent.

Transcript

A map depicting the range of the extinct Homo neanderthalensis ryulong CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia

A map of the likely range of extinct Neandertals across Eurasia. (Ryulong/CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Neandertals’ genetic legacy. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Around 50,000 years ago, modern humans interbred with Neandertals. And even though the archaic hominins eventually died out, a tiny amount of their DNA still persists in people of Eurasian descent today. The genetic legacy includes risk factors for skin conditions, blood clotting disorders, and even depression, according to a study in Science magazine. But Vanderbilt University evolutionary geneticist Corinne Simonti says the findings don’t necessarily mean that Neandertals were depressed.

CORINNE SIMONTI (Vanderbilt University):

Just because Neandertal DNA impacts depression today doesn’t mean that’s what it did 50,000 years ago. Neandertals didn’t make us depressed; they influenced our risk for depression and other health-related traits. And, these studies can sort of give us clues to what happened in the past and how it affects us today.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.