The two species regularly interbred by about 45,000 years ago. When some of the earliest human migrants to Europe encountered Neandertals already living there around 45,000 years ago, hookups flourished. Analyses of DNA found in human fossils from around that time — the oldest known human remains in Europe — suggest that interbreeding between Homo sapiens and Neandertals, who were on the fast track to extinction, occurred more commonly than has often been assumed, two new studies suggest. Both reports appear April 7 in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Genetic evidence in the new reports indicates for the first time that distinct human populations reached Europe shortly after 50,000 years ago. Neandertals interbred with all the groups detected so far, ensuring that some of their genes live on today in our DNA.
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