Ancient humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans were genetically closer than polar bears and brown bears, and so, like the bears, were able to easily produce healthy, fertile hybrids according to a study, led by the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology.
The study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that the genetic distance values between humans and our ancient relatives were smaller than the distance between pairs of species which are known to easily hybridise and have fertile young.
'Our desire to categorise the world into discrete boxes has led us to think of species as completely separate units,' explains Professor Greger Larson, Director of the Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network (PalaeoBARN) at Oxford and senior author of the study. 'Biology does not care about these rigid definitions, and lots of species, even those that are far apart evolutionarily, swap genes all the time.'
'Our predictive metric allows for a quick and easy determination of how likely it is for any two species to produce fertile hybrid offspring. This comparative measure suggests that humans and Neanderthals and Denisovans were able to produce live fertile young with ease.’
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