The Atlantic

The Viruses That Neanderthals Spread to Humans

The two ancient hominin groups swapped genes, diseases, and genes that protect against diseases, according to a new study.
Source: Claire Scully

When modern humans left Africa for Europe tens of thousands of years ago, they met Neanderthals and had sex with them. The evidence of those encounters remains inside most of us today; 2 to 3 percent of the DNA of non-African humans comes from Neanderthals.

The bits of Neanderthal DNA that have persisted are not entirely random. Scientists have wondered whether they offered some advantage in the early days of humanity, as they cluster, curiously, around genes related to skin, hair, and the immune system. A goes one an evolutionary biologist now at the University of Arizona and an author of the paper.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic8 min readPolitics
The U.S. Is About to Do Something Big on Hong Kong
Protests there have demonstrated the enduring appeal of American values and power. But can Washington live up to that promise?
The Atlantic9 min read
The Plot Against Persona
It’s preposterous for Lana Del Rey and other musicians to deny that they’re playing characters. But in this pop landscape, that denial might be necessary.
The Atlantic5 min readScience
A Woman’s AncestryDNA Test Revealed a Medical Secret
As a cancer patient, she had received cord-blood cells from an anonymous donor. The DNA from those cells led her to him.