Cro-Magnons Conquered Europe, but Left Neanderthals Alone

PLoS Biology: Cro-Magnons Conquered Europe, but Left Neanderthals Alone: "An ongoing question concerns the possibility that Neanderthals and early humans mated, since they likely crossed paths during thousands of years of European cohabitation. In a new study, Mathias Currat and Laurent Excoffier present a simulation model based on what we know about the population density and distribution of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons. Their results complement recent genetic and morphological evidence indicating that early human and Neanderthal interbreeding was unlikely.

Since no Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA has been found in modern-day Europeans, the authors modeled the maximum number of interbreeding events that would support this observation. The estimated maximum number of events, it turns out, falls between 34 and 120—extremely low values, Currat and Excoffier conclude, “given the fact that the two populations must have coexisted for more than 12,000 years.”

While the authors acknowledge their simulations suggest rather than reflect reality, their model does incorporate real historical data such as Cro-Magnon expansion over time and local population growth. At a value of only 0.1%, their new estimate of the rate of interbreeding is about 400 times lower than previous estimates and provides strong support that Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon didn't interbreed and may even have been different species."

Cro-Magnons Conquered Europe, but Left Neanderthals Alone. PLoS Biol 2(12): e449 Published: November 30, 2004

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