An international research team has sequenced the Neandertal genome, using pill-sized samples of bone powder from three Neandertal bones found in a cave in Croatia. The results appear in the 7 May issue of the journal Science, which is published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.
The researchers, led by Svante Pbo of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, compared the Neandertal genome with the genomes of five present-day humans from different parts of the world. The results reveal a variety of genes that are unique to humans, including a handful that spread rapidly among our species after humans and Neandertals split from a common ancestor. These findings thus offer a shortlist of genomic regions and genes that may be key to our human identity.
The scientists also found that modern humans and Neandertals most likely interbred, to a small extent, probably as modern humans encountered Neandertals in the Middle East, after leaving Africa.
"Having a first version of the Neandertal genome fulfills a long-standing dream. For the first time we can now identify genetic features that sets us apart from all other organisms, including our closest evolutionary relatives," said Pbo.
"We have so many questions about the Neandertals, not the least of which is, how much were they like us? The Neandertal genome promises to be a fruitful source of information about the evolutionar
|Contact: Natasha Pinol|
American Association for the Advancement of Science