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Ground-breaking DNA study sheds light on human ancestry

By Ben Kendall

A genome taken from a 36,000-year-old skeleton has helped scientists shed new light on interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals.

The ground-breaking study of DNA recovered from a fossil of one of the earliest known Europeans - a man who lived in western Russia - shows that the genetics of the earliest inhabitants of the continent survived the last ice age, helping form the basis of the modern-day population.

Known as the Kostenki genome, the DNA also contained evidence the man shared a small percentage of Neanderthal genes, confirming previous findings which show a period when Neanderthals and the first humans to leave Africa for Europe briefly interbred.

This means that, even now, anyone with a Eurasian ancestry - from Chinese to Scandinavian and North American - has a small element of Neanderthal DNA.

Despite sharing Europe's landmass for another 10,000 years, no further interbreeding occurred.

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