We like to think our superior brainpower means we survived while they perished. But we may not have been alive today, if it were not for the Neanderthals.
Studies show that we owe much of the power of our immune system to genes we picked up from our caveman cousins.
Interbreeding with Neanderthals gave our ancestors a ready-made cocktail of DNA invaluable in fighting diseases common in northern climates, research by immunologist Peter Parham suggests.
This, in turn, vastly sped up our evolution, and gave us the strength and resilience needed to populate the world.
Research released last year revealed that our ancestors couldn’t resist the charms of the Neanderthals tens of thousands of years ago.
As a result, there is a little bit of Neanderthal in all of us. In some parts of the world, up to 4 per cent of people’s DNA comes from the short, stocky cavemen.