Laurits Skov says: Our closest evolutionary relatives the Neanderthals and Denisovans are now extinct. However, part of them still lives on through us in our genomes. Most people of non-African descent trace 1-2% of their ancestry to Neanderthals and 0.01-5% to Denisovans, and we can therefore reconstruct the genomes of these extinct archaic humans from our own genomes. This will allow us to answer questions such as: How many archaic humans contributed to our genomes? How many times did we encounter them and how long did we coexist? When did they go extinct? How do their genes affect us today? Are there parts of our genomes that are uniquely human?
I will develop novel computational methods to answer these questions and apply these methods to data from 1.1 million human genomes. This will give us a unique glimpse into the past lives and history of extinct humans and characterize their impact on our genomes.
Laurits Skov is currently a postdoc at University of California (Berkeley). He will relocate to the Bioinformatic Research Center (BIRC) at Aarhus University on 1 April 2024 to establish his independent research group.