AS OUR ancestors moved north out of Africa and onto the doorstep to the rest of the world, they came across their long-lost cousins: the Neanderthals. As the popular story goes, the brutish hominins were simply no match for cultured, intelligent Homo sapiens and quickly went extinct.
Maybe, but it's also possible that Neanderthals were simply unlucky and disappeared by chance, mathematicians propose.
We know that humans and Neanderthals got pretty cosy during their time together in the Middle East, 45,000 years ago. Between 1 and 4 per cent of the DNA of modern non-Africans is of Neanderthal origin, implying their ancestors must have interbred before humans moved into Europe (New Scientist, 15 May 2010, p 8).
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