"The only modern populations without Neanderthal admixture are the sub-Saharan groups," said researcher Carles Lalueza-Fox, a paleogeneticist at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at Barcelona, Spain.
The researchers say their findings do not suggest that Neanderthals entered Africa and made intimate contact with ancient North Africans. Rather, "what we are saying is that the contact took place outside Africa, likely in the Near East, and that there was a back migration into Africa of some groups that peopled North Africa, likely replacing or assimilating some ancestral populations," Lalueza-Fox told LiveScience.
This research also suggests that North African groups were not the source of the out-of-Africa migrations. Rather, other groups, perhaps out of East Africa, might have led this diaspora.
The scientists detailed their findings Oct. 17 in the journal PLoS ONE.
Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.