Excavating Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from the genomes of Melanesian individuals

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Science  08 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6282, pp. 235-239
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9416

Denisovan DNA retained in Melanesians

Modern humans carry remnants of DNA from interbreeding events with archaic lineages, such as Neandertals. However, people from Oceania also retain genes from a second ancient lineage, the Denisovans. Vernot et al. surveyed archaic genomic sequences in a worldwide sample of modern humans, including 35 individuals from the Melanesian Islands. All non-African genomes surveyed contained Neandertal DNA, but a significant Denisovan component was found only in the Melanesians. Reconstruction of this genetic history suggests that Neandertals bred with modern humans multiple times, but Denosivans only once, in ancestors of modern-day Melanesians.

Science, this issue p. 235


Although Neandertal sequences that persist in the genomes of modern humans have been identified in Eurasians, comparable studies in people whose ancestors hybridized with both Neandertals and Denisovans are lacking. We developed an approach to identify DNA inherited from multiple archaic hominin ancestors and applied it to whole-genome sequences from 1523 geographically diverse individuals, including 35 previously unknown Island Melanesian genomes. In aggregate, we recovered 1.34 gigabases and 303 megabases of the Neandertal and Denisovan genome, respectively. We use these maps of archaic sequences to show that Neandertal admixture occurred multiple times in different non-African populations, characterize genomic regions that are significantly depleted of archaic sequences, and identify signatures of adaptive introgression.

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