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Keywords:

  • ancient DNA;
  • population genetics;
  • Approximate Bayesian Computations;
  • coalescent simulations;
  • admixture

Abstract

Neandertals, the archaic human form documented in Eurasia until 29,000 years ago, share no mitochondrial haplotype with modern Europeans. Whether this means that the two groups were reproductively isolated is controversial, and indeed nuclear data have been interpreted as suggesting that they admixed. We explored the range of demographic parameters that may have generated the observed mitochondrial diversity, simulating 3.0 million genealogies under six models differing as for the relationships among contemporary Europeans, Neandertals, and Upper Palaeolithic European early modern humans (EEMH), who coexisted with Neandertals for millennia. We compared by Approximate Bayesian Computations the simulation results with mitochondrial diversity in 7 Neandertals, 3 EEMH, and 150 opportunely chosen modern Europeans. A model of genealogical continuity between EEMH and contemporary Europeans, with no Neandertal contribution, received overwhelming support from the analyses. The maximum degree of Neandertal admixture, under the model of gene flow supported by nuclear data, was estimated at 1.5%, but this model proved 20–32 times less likely than a model without any gene flow. Nuclear and mitochondrial evidence might be reconciled if smaller population sizes led to faster lineage sorting for mitochondrial DNA, and Neandertals shared a longer period of common ancestry with the non-African's than with the African's ancestors. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.