Introgression, the sequel

By Razib Khan | December 18, 2006 11:39 am

About a month ago I posted quite a bit about Neandertal introgression into modern humans. That is, the uptake of Neandertal alleles are a few specific adaptively salient loci even while ancestry remains predominantly African. Now John Hawks and Gregory Cochran have a new paper out, Dynamics of Adaptive Introgression from Archaic to Modern Humans, which synthesizes the first of the new results. The paper is open access, but I’ll throw out the money shot:

We suggest that adaptive introgression of alleles from archaic humans may be one of the central mechanisms leading to the “human revolution.” The behavioral characteristics
of modern humans, including the employment of symbolic culture and sophisticated technologies, followed the attainment of modern human anatomical features by a considerable delay (Klein and Edgar 2002). The notion that a single small population of incipient modern humans had the perfect genetic combination for ultimate success seems quite improbable. Instead, the long coevolution of modern anatomy and behavior in contact with archaic humans, even as those archaic populations appeared to diminish, provided a rich source of adaptations for the expanding modern population. With current genomic techniques, we are beginning to find these archaic genes. We expect that they will prove central to the story of modern human origins.

What Hawks and Cochran propose is that introgression of adaptive alleles into the Out-of-Africa substratum is the key to humanity as we understand it.

  • Christopher Gwyn

    A ground-dwelling ape adapted for foraging in mixed environments moves into a greater and greater variety of similarly mixed environments…and undergoes selection for each of those slightly different environments, and then spreads those genes around…and the ground-dwelling ape gets even more specialized at prospering from a wide variety of mixed environments…

  • keil

    It does have a certain elegance, like a microcosm of life itself.

  • TGGP

    So, the Out-of-Africa descended populations are “humanity as we know it”? I know that’s not what they intended to say, but it sounds poorly worded to me.
    I’m not as up to snuff on this as I’d like to be, but are all the Out-of-Africa descended populations inheritors of Neandertal introgression, including native Americans, the Aborigines of Australia and the Negritos of the Andaman islands? Or is it just what Jared Diamond would lump together as “Eurasia”?


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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