The Combined Landscape of Denisovan and Neanderthal Ancestry in Present-Day Humans

Curr Biol. 2016 May 9;26(9):1241-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.03.037. Epub 2016 Mar 28.


Some present-day humans derive up to ∼5% [1] of their ancestry from archaic Denisovans, an even larger proportion than the ∼2% from Neanderthals [2]. We developed methods that can disambiguate the locations of segments of Denisovan and Neanderthal ancestry in present-day humans and applied them to 257 high-coverage genomes from 120 diverse populations, among which were 20 individual Oceanians with high Denisovan ancestry [3]. In Oceanians, the average size of Denisovan fragments is larger than Neanderthal fragments, implying a more recent average date of Denisovan admixture in the history of these populations (p = 0.00004). We document more Denisovan ancestry in South Asia than is expected based on existing models of history, reflecting a previously undocumented mixture related to archaic humans (p = 0.0013). Denisovan ancestry, just like Neanderthal ancestry, has been deleterious on a modern human genetic background, as reflected by its depletion near genes. Finally, the reduction of both archaic ancestries is especially pronounced on chromosome X and near genes more highly expressed in testes than other tissues (p = 1.2 × 10(-7) to 3.2 × 10(-7) for Denisovan and 2.2 × 10(-3) to 2.9 × 10(-3) for Neanderthal ancestry even after controlling for differences in level of selective constraint across gene classes). This suggests that reduced male fertility may be a general feature of mixtures of human populations diverged by >500,000 years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Continental Population Groups / genetics*
  • Demography
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Neanderthals / genetics*
  • Time Factors