Neanderthal Genomics Suggests a Pleistocene Time Frame for the First Epidemiologic Transition
Charlotte Jane Houldcroft , Simon Underdown
High quality Altai Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes are revealing which regions of archaic hominin DNA have persisted in the modern human genome. A number of these regions are associated with response to infection and immunity, with a suggestion that derived Neanderthal alleles found in modern Europeans and East Asians may be associated with autoimmunity. Independent sources of DNA-based evidence allow a re-evaluation of the nature and timing of the first epidemiologic transition. By combining skeletal, archaeological and genetic evidence we question whether the first epidemiologic transition in Eurasia was as tightly tied to the onset of the Holocene as has previously been assumed. There is clear evidence to suggest that this transition began before the appearance of agriculture and occurred over a timescale of tens of thousands of years. The transfer of pathogens between human species may also have played a role in the extinction of the Neanderthals.