Paleogenomics

Human spit contains ancestral surprises

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Science  18 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6352, pp. 657-658
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6352.657-g

Non-African modern humans retain a limited genetic signature from ancestral hybridization events that occurred ∼60,000 years ago. Extinct archaic hominoids, such as Neandertals and Denisovans, appear to have had relations with anatomically modern humans. Some researchers have postulated that other archaic lineages may be found within the genomes of modern humans. For example, Xu et al. analyzed the extent of human variation of the MUC7 gene, which encodes a protein found at high levels in saliva. One variant appears to have originated in an unknown ancestor before the human-Neandertal split and is retained at high levels in modern people of sub-Saharan African descent.

Molec. Biol. Evol. 10.1093/molbev/msx206 (2017).

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