Like everyone else on the planet, you are human. To be precise, you are a homo-sapien, at least for the most part! Thanks to your randy ancestors you may also be part Neanderthal and/or Denisovan. And that may have serious consequences…
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When we refer to humans we generally mean homo sapiens, if only because we’re the only species left. But there were others that co-existed with our ancestors and it seems that they were sexy!
When early homo sapien humans left Africa they first met Neanderthals. When they ventured further east they bumped into Denisovans. Both encounters led to interbreeding.
Europeans and Asians may have inherited between 1.5% and 4% of their genes from Neanderthals. Pacific Islanders the Melanesians can thank Denisovans for 2% – 3% of their genes. They, along with other Pacific Islanders and Australian Aborigines also have genes from a yet unknown human species! The people who stayed in Africa did not miss out either! There is evidence of another unidentified species in modern African populations.
The Consequences Of Neanderthal DNA
This is not just an interesting but academic fact. It has real-world consequences.
The most studied influence is Neanderthal DNA which affects people of European & Asian heritage. So how does neanderthal dna affect us?
Researchers Joshua Akey and Tony Capra worked out that they could search for clusters of Neanderthal DNA in a large medical database. They found DNA traces in the records of 28,000 people of European descent. The researchers then checked what conditions these people may be more prone to develop. They found that Neanderthal genes may increase the risk of neurological conditions including mood disorders and depression.
Other research looked at how personality traits may be influenced. The researchers gave personality tests to 200 people who had their DNA already mapped. They found that people with higher percentages of Neanderthal genes have higher rates of autistic and depressive tendencies. They are less imaginative and more promiscuous. Neanderthals were less sociable than us and people with higher rates of their genes tend to suffer more from social anxiety.
Some people’s blood can be more “sticky” thanks to their heritage. Sticky blood helps to stem blood loss as it coagulates faster. This would be a benefit for much of history as it means that wounds heal faster. Unfortunately sticky blood can also increase the risk of stoke in older generations.
Obesity is another correlation the researchers found. Another is how addictive nicotine is for modern humans!
And the list does not end there. Research by the Harvard Medical School also linked type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease and lupus. All thanks to our horny ancestors!
Harmful or Beneficial Genes?
Why do we suffer so much from these genes? Surely harmful genes should have been bred out of the human genome by now?
Well, genes are often a two-edged sword. Like the sticky blood example, a trait might be good in one situation but bad in another. Neanderthals passed on genes that affect our ability to absorb vitamin D from sunlight. They passed on genes that affect our sleep patterns. Both of these are known factors that may affect depression. These genes may have been beneficial as humans moved north though, as the sun got weaker and the amount of daylight varied more with the season.
Neanderthals were a different species of human. More of their brains was devoted to visual and spatial processing. Some of these traits may have crossed over. Certain people may be better at spatial reasoning and never suffer any ill effects.
Also, genes work together. Certain genes may amplify or nullify the effects of others. Sometimes genes only express due to external influences. Nurture causing a change in nature.
Have you had a DNA test? Would you like to share the results? Tell us about it in the comment below!
Is Neanderthal Nookie Affecting your Mental Health?
Depression, mood disorders, social anxiety, a lack of imagination and promiscuity. You may be more prone to these conditions because your ancestors had sex with Neanderthals. And that's just the start!