FILE - This Friday, March 20, 2009 file photo shows reconstructions of a Neanderthal man, left, and woman at the Neanderthal museum in Mettmann, Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) Many people around the world have more Denisovan DNA than previously thought, which has contributed to their sense of smell and ability to thrive at high altitudes, according to a study released Monday.
Researchers know that modern humans with ancestry outside of Africa inherited up to 2.1 percent of their DNA from Neanderthals. But far less was known about Denisovans, who are believed to have shared origins with Neanderthals and account for up to 5 percent of DNA in some present day populations.
The latest work, from a research team at Harvard Medical School and UCLA, developed a world map of ancient DNA. In doing so, they found that populations in Oceania populations had the highest percentage of ancient DNA – 2 percent Neanderthal and 5 percent Denisovan - while South Asians had more Denisovan DNA – 0.1 percent in Sherpas - than expected. That raises the possibility of unknown interbreeding events.
Western Europeans are the least likely non-Africans to have Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA while Africans have almost none.