Next in Evolution | Sriram Sankararaman || Radcliffe Institute | Summary and Q&A

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December 3, 2018
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Harvard University
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Next in Evolution | Sriram Sankararaman || Radcliffe Institute

TL;DR

Ancient DNA has enabled scientists to study the interbreeding between Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans, leading to the discovery of peaks and deserts of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in present-day populations, and uncovering the functional impact of archaic DNA on human biology.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How long are Neanderthal DNA segments in modern humans?

Neanderthal DNA segments in modern humans are around 50,000 bases long, with variation in length.

Q: Are there specific functions associated with peaks and deserts of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA?

Peaks of Neanderthal DNA are associated with skin and hair-related functions, suggesting potential adaptation to different environments. Deserts of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA include regions linked to language and speech functions.

Q: Is the impact of archaic DNA predominantly beneficial or deleterious?

The overall impact of archaic DNA is a mix of both beneficial and deleterious effects. While peaks of archaic DNA indicate adaptive advantages, the majority of archaic DNA is considered deleterious and gets purged in highly constrained regions of the genome.

Q: Is there evidence of Neanderthal DNA in African populations?

Some African populations show traces of Neanderthal DNA, likely due to back migration from populations that left Africa. However, the traces are minimal and not as prominent as in non-African populations.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA has been found in present-day populations, revealing multiple interbreeding events between archaic and modern humans.

  • The length of Neanderthal DNA segments in modern humans is around 50,000 bases, with variation in length.

  • Peaks and deserts of Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA have been identified along the genome, with peaks associated with skin and hair-related functions, and deserts potentially linked to functions like speech and language.

  • The overall impact of archaic DNA is a mix of deleterious and beneficial effects, with purging observed in highly constrained regions of the genome.

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