Researchers have found that Neanderthals passed on a lot more traits than you might think including skin tone, hair colour, sleeping patterns and even mood.
Around 2% of the DNA of non-African people is Neanderthal, which means that inevitably there were always going to be some traits that were passed down.
Until now though, it had never been clear how many traits there were or indeed what they were.
A study led by Janet Kelso at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany has revealed not only the amount of traits, but how they affect us.
What they found was interesting. All the traits associated with Neanderthal DNA were related in some way to sunlight exposure.
When humans moved from Africa to Eurasia around 30,000-100,000 years ago, Neanderthals had been living in communities for thousands of years. Their bodies had adapted to the cooler temperatures and lower light levels.
“Skin and hair color, circadian rhythms and mood are all influenced by light exposure,” the researchers wrote.
“We speculate that their identification in our analysis suggests that sun exposure may have shaped Neanderthal phenotypes and that gene flow into modern humans continues to contribute to variation in these traits today.”
That means everything from how you feel in the morning to whether or not you can tan could in some small way be influenced by the Neanderthal DNA that has been passed down.
To get a clear and definitive picture of this the researchers had to look for a large sample size. Neanderthal alleles are rare so to get the best data set they had to turn to the UK Biobank pilot study.
This contained individual genetic data from over 112,000 participants looking at physical appearance, diet, sun exposure and disease.