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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.


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)


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.


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