The relative roles of maternal survival and inter-personal violence as selection pressures on the persistence of Neanderthal hypercoagulability alleles in modern Europeans.
Background: Simonti et al. reported variation in the frequency of Neanderthal alleles found in modern humans and argued that they may have provided an evolutionary advantage. One such allele is SNP rs3917862, associated with hypercoagulability. rs3917862 can be deleterious, but can also help prevent blood loss. Aim: To investigate two possible selective pressure hypotheses for rs3917862 surviving to higher frequencies: deaths from interpersonal violent trauma and childbirth. Subjects and methods: Mortality data from modern hunter-gatherers models the living conditions and causes of death of humans and Neanderthals at the point of admixture. Results: National census data indicates a positive correlation between the presence of rs3917862 and decreased maternal mortality ratios. When the maternal mortality ratio is modelled using GDP, births attended by skilled assistants and the presence of rs3917862, women are 0.1% more likely to die in childbirth in populations lacking rs3917862. Deaths due to violence show no correlation with rs3917862. Conclusion: These findings challenge the idea that Neanderthal admixture has negatively impacted the overall health of modern humans. Maternal survival may have acted as a selective pressure for the persistence of hypercoagulability alleles in modern Europeans. Understanding the role of hypercoagulability in childbirth, and the role of rs3917862, could help to reduce maternal mortality ratios.