A bigger nose could be due to Neanderthals in your family tree | tech news
The shape of our noses may be determined by genetic material inherited from Neanderthals, new research suggests.
A new study led by UCL researchers found that a particular gene that leads to a larger nose (top to bottom) may have been the product of natural selection as ancient humans adapted to colder climates after leaving Africa.
co-author dr Kaustubh Adhikari, from UCL’s Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment and The Open University, said: “In the last 15 years since the Neanderthal genome has been sequenced, we have been able to learn that our own ancestors appear to have interbred with Neanderthals and gave us small parts left in their DNA.
“Here we find that some of the DNA inherited from Neanderthals influences the shape of our faces.
“This may have been helpful to our ancestors as it has been passed down for thousands of generations.”
The researchers used data from more than 6,000 people from across Latin America of mixed European, Amerindian and African ancestry who are part of the UCL-led Candela Study, recruited from Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru.
People’s genetic information was compared to photographs of their faces.
Specifically, to see how different facial features are related to the presence of different genetic markers, the researchers looked at the distances between points on their faces, such as the tip of their nose or the edge of their lips.
According to the study, the researchers re-identified 33 genomic regions linked to face shape.
They were able to replicate 26 comparisons with data from other races using people in East Asia, Europe, or Africa.
Specifically, in a region of the genome called ATF3, the researchers found that many people in their study with Native American ancestry (as well as others with East Asian ancestry from another group) had genetic material in this gene inherited from Neanderthals.
They found that this contributed to an increased nose height.
This gene region shows signs of natural selection, suggesting it confers an advantage on carriers of the genetic material, the researchers say.
“It has long been speculated that the shape of our noses is determined by natural selection,” said first author Dr. Qing Li from Fudan University. “Because our noses can help us regulate the temperature and humidity of the air we breathe, differently shaped noses may be better suited to the different climates in which our ancestors lived.
“The gene we’ve identified here may have been inherited by Neanderthals to help humans adapt to colder climates when our ancestors migrated from Africa.”
Co-author Professor Andres Ruiz-Linares, Fudan University, UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment, and Aix-Marseille University, added: “Most genetic studies of human diversity have examined the genes of Europeans – our study’s diverse sample of Latin American participants extends that.” reach of genetic study results and helps us to better understand the genetics of all people.’
Researchers say the finding, published in Communications Biology, is the second discovery of DNA from archaic humans that differs from Homo sapiens and influences the shape of our faces.
The same team, in a 2021 publication, discovered that a gene affecting lip shape was inherited from ancient Denisovans.
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