The evolutionary history of Neandertal and Denisovan Y chromosomes, by Martin Petr et al. bioRxiv (2020).
Ancient DNA has allowed the study of various aspects of human history in unprecedented detail. However, because the majority of archaic human specimens preserved well enough for genome sequencing have been female, comprehensive studies of Y chromosomes of Denisovans and Neandertals have not yet been possible. Here we present sequences of the first Denisovan Y chromosomes (Denisova 4 and Denisova 8), as well as the Y chromosomes of three late Neandertals (Spy 94a, Mezmaiskaya 2 and El Sidrón 1253). We find that the Denisovan Y chromosomes split around 700 thousand years ago (kya) from a lineage shared by Neandertal and modern human Y chromosomes, which diverged from each other around 370 kya. The phylogenetic relationships of archaic and modern human Y chromosomes therefore differ from population relationships inferred from their autosomal genomes, and mirror the relationships observed on the level of mitochondrial DNA. This provides strong evidence that gene flow from an early lineage related to modern humans resulted in the replacement of both the mitochondrial and Y chromosomal gene pools in late Neandertals. Although unlikely under neutrality, we show that this replacement is plausible if the low effective population size of Neandertals resulted in an increased genetic load in their Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA relative to modern humans.