500,000-Year-Old Neanderthal Viruses Found in Modern Human DNA —(Did We Interbreed?)
Neanderthal viruses dating back 500,000 years has been discovered in modern human DNA when scientists studied links between ‘endogenous retroviruses’, which are hard-wired into DNA, and modern diseases such as AIDs and cancer. The researchers compared DNA from Neanderthals and another group of ancient humans called Denisovans with that obtained from cancer patients and found evidence of Neanderthal and Denisovan viruses in modern DNA, suggesting they shared a common ancestor more than 500,000 years ago. Neanderthals co-existed and possibly interbred with our ancestors in Europe for thousands of years, but belonged to a different sub-species, eventually becoming extinct around 30,000 years ago.
Approximately 8% of human DNA is made up of endogenous retroviruses, or ERVs, which are DNA sequences left by viruses which pass from generation to generation, forming part of the 90 per cent of the genome, sometimes called ‘junk’ DNA, that contains no instruction codes for making proteins.