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Scientists Map Neanderthal Genome

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the first-draft-means-they-can-still-send-it-back dept.

Biotech 229

goran72 writes "In a development which could reveal the links between modern humans and their prehistoric cousins, scientists said they have mapped a first draft of the Neanderthal genome. Researchers used DNA fragments extracted from three Croatian fossils to map out more than 60 percent of the entire Neanderthal genome by sequencing three billion bases of DNA."

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Wonder where the stories about trolls come from? (1)

viking80 (697716) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840713)

Wonder where the stories about trolls come from?

Re:Wonder where the stories about trolls come from (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840833)

Wonder where the stories about trolls come from?

Here?

I kinda doubt it (5, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841163)

I kinda doubt it. Neanderthals went extinct so long ago, that I doubt that any stories or myths from that age would have survived as long.

We're talking long before humanity invented writing, so the only way it could have survived is if the shaman of a tribe taught his apprentice about it, and so on. For some tens of thousands of years straight. I'd think that's rather unlikely. They had more pressing concerns in the here and now than "those guys our ancestors lived in the same cave with."

Basically, how many folk stories do we have about woolly mammoths? Why would Neanderthals be remembered more?

Re:I kinda doubt it (4, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842329)

In Australia, the aborigines still have myths about creatures which actually lived there...40,000 years ago. Yes, myths can live on that long.

Re:I kinda doubt it (3, Interesting)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842681)

Myths can live a long time. We have stories in our culture whose origins date back five thousand years, and perhaps more. It is possible that the European stories of trolls and ogres came from the days when humans and Neanderthals both use to live in Europe. We will never know if this is the case, but the possibility can not be completely ruled out.

Re:Wonder where the stories about trolls come from (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26842457)

From what I heard about trolls, they where a local folk in some place... Denmark? I dono, it was only something I overheard someone say and cant remember clearly, but the point is, trolls were probably a folk local to some northern place, and others moved in and killed them off, demonising them in the process.

What, no kdawson? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26840739)

How dare you fill in kdawson's job when he is not around?

We demand to read summaries with misleading titles, unchecked facts, links to ads, and wrong dates!

what if (1)

mateomiguel (614660) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840763)

what if it turns out that the genome is the same as the human genome? Talk about wasted effort...

Re:what if (4, Funny)

arogier (1250960) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840773)

Hey, maybe the zoo can take care of my student loans if I have enough neanderthal markers in my personal genome.

Re:what if (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840829)

You should not be in the zoo. No, you should not be in the zoo. With all the things that you can do, the circus is the place for you.

Re:what if (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841409)

Where do you think bearded ladies come from.

Other than slashdot basement dwellers.

Re:zoo (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841945)

+1 Seuss

Re:zoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26842985)

+1 Seuss

-1 Seuss
+1 Lopshire

Re:what if (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26840897)

Hey, maybe the zoo can take care of my student loans if I have enough neanderthal markers in my personal genome.

You will lose your "Human" Rights. And therea ano No "Neanderthal" Rights in the Constitution.

Re:what if (2, Interesting)

mrxak (727974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841179)

That said, assuming you don't bite somebody or have some kind of crazy infectious disease, you'd probably be better off not being classified as human. Sure, you could be considered property like a slave, but you wouldn't have to pay taxes or be responsible for a whole variety of crimes. Heck, PETA would probably make sure you had more rights than humans.

Re:what if (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840835)

Not wasted, because you still learn something.

Re:what if (0, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840851)

Interesting. What would we learn? That the fossil record which we believe shows a divergence in the primate family tree (and subsequently label "evolution") may not actually be showing divergence of species at all? That the claims of speciation among primates doesn't happen?

That *gasp* evolution doesn't happen?

No, you'd better hope that there is a difference between the human genome and the Neanderthal genome.

Re:what if (1, Interesting)

mrxak (727974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841159)

Anyone who's seen a neanderthal skull knows that something different was going on there. Humans just don't look like that. The bone structures are all quite different. Now, obviously it's going to be close, closer than us and the chimpanzees, but there will be some differences there. If there weren't, it wouldn't disprove evolution, it would disprove genetics.

Re:what if (2, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842543)

No, you'd better hope that there is a difference between the human genome and the Neanderthal genome.

According to what was said on NPR this morning, there is less than a 1% difference between the human genome and the neanderthal genome.

The fact that there is a difference at all shows we and they were two distinct species. This doesn't even take into consideration the 2-3% difference between humans and chimpanzees.

Re:what if (3, Informative)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843079)

By definition, two species are distinct if they cannot breed and produce fertile offspring. The whole point of this research is to determine whether this is true or not. So this:

The fact that there is a difference at all shows we and they were two distinct species.

misses the point entirely. You and I have different dna. Does the fact that there is a difference at all make us separate species? I very much doubt it.

The whole question being researched is precisely this: how much difference was there between neanderthals and modern humans, and was it enough of a difference that they could not have interbred. It is the inability to interbreed and produce fertile offspring, not the presence of any difference at all, that determines separate species status.

Re:what if (3, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843463)

how much difference was there between neanderthals and modern humans, and was it enough of a difference that they could not have interbred.

According to the researcher they had on NPR this morning, that question has not been answered. Here [npr.org] is the NPR link. The third paragraph talks about the divergence between humans and neanderthals. The next to last paragraph mentions the question of interbreeding. You of course can listen to the entire broadcast by following the link at the top of the article.

You and I have different dna.

That is true as individuals, but as we are both humans, we have the same overall genome and so could breed (assuming male-female of course). With neanderthals having a slightly different genome than humans, there could be enough of a difference to not have allowed that to happen, especially since we and they diverged to two different branches just as we and the great apes diverged even earlier. Obviously, those in the know will have to make that determination.

Re:what if (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843671)

Plus, "species" is sort of a fuzzy and debated term with lots of funny edge cases - much to the consternation of people who need to label everything :)

Re:what if (1)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841453)

We already know that this is not the case.

Re:what if (1)

StuckInSyrup (745480) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841663)

Well, it would mean that the whole science of genetics and molecular biology is completely wrong. It would be the same as if someone would discover that electricity doesn't exist.

Re:what if (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842491)

Since humans are not descendant from neanderthals that would be staggeringly unlikely. It would be like 2 nieces having genetically identical offspring : unlikely in the extreme. Only a human and a neanderthal aren't disconnected by 2 generations, but by a few thousand.

Actually during the time neanderthals lived alongside the real human ancestors, they were the smarter species of the two, so recreating a live neanderthal would be an interesting experience indeed ... Just how smart are they ? Would they talk (most monkeys have at least a limited language, so probably they would talk). What sort of languages could they learn ? We've seen their bones, but do they look like gorilla's in real life (e.g. it's known most dinosaurs had feathers, so by looking only at bones you can make some pretty staggering mistakes) ? Would they be strong ?

Would they be dumber ? Smarter perhaps ? Especially smarter would be interesting. And if they turn against us ? Well we fought(/starved*) them to extinction already once before, didn't we ?

* starved being the "peaceful alternative" way for evolution to work. It appears that little actual fighting was done to kill neanderthals, we (or someone else ? perhaps some animal ?) just stole so much of their food they died out.

Re:what if (4, Interesting)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843309)

Actually during the time neanderthals lived alongside the real human ancestors, they were the smarter species of the two

Not so. During the time when both Modern Humans and Neanderthals coexisted, Modern Humans, by and large, showed evidence of the more sophisticated material culture (tools, art,etc.). Maybe you're thinking of the fact that, on average, Neanderthals had larger brains? Larger brain size does not = more intelligent. It's quite likely that Neanderthals had larger brains for the same reason that they had short, thick limbs: an evolved adaptation to the extreme cold of glacial eurasia. Neanderthal body proportions were most likely an example of Allen's Rule [wikipedia.org] .

FOXP2 (4, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840765)

The interesting thing is that Neanderthals has the same version of FOXP2 [iht.com] as modern humans. This makes it more likely that they had proper speech rather than just "grunting" sounds.

Re:FOXP2 (1)

LucidBeast (601749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841097)

So in the remakes of cave man movies the inhabitants will speak eloquently?

Re:FOXP2 (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841111)

Yeah, just like the Flintstones!

Re:FOXP2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26843261)

Yabadabadooooo!

Re:FOXP2 (2, Informative)

cosmocain (1060326) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841253)

Nah.

FOXP2 is responsible for "language development" with songbirds and other animals(*), too. If your logic would be correct, birds would talk like humans - which they obviously don't. (*)

The FOXP2 protein sequence is highly conserved. Similar FOXP2 proteins can be found in songbirds, fish, and reptiles such as alligators.

see here [wikipedia.org]

Re:FOXP2 (1)

VShael (62735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841289)

Didn't we just get over discussing the other day how wikipedia is not a valid reference?

Re:FOXP2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26841517)

No you got that wrong. If Wikipedia says fishes can talk, they will self-reference and start talking right away.

Re:FOXP2 (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841687)

Didn't we just get over discussing the other day how wikipedia is not a valid reference?

Sorry, your post doesn't count, because you didn't provide any supporting references.

Re:FOXP2 (4, Informative)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841341)

Having or not having FOXP2 is not the point. The point is that neanderthals had exactly the same allele, the same sequence of FOXP2 that we humans have. And that small changes to this sequence render humans speechless.

In other words: having a gene for eye pigmentation does not make you blue-eyed. But having a particular version of this gene can. Some people think that this particular version of FOXP2 is necessary for correct speech development.

j.

Re:FOXP2 (1)

V14D (1013603) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843283)

Having or not having FOXP2 is not the point. The point is that neanderthals had exactly the same allele, the same sequence of FOXP2 that we humans have. And that small changes to this sequence render humans speechless.

Maybe they got it from us [oxfordjournals.org] ?

Krause et al. (2007) recently examined patterns of genetic variation at FOXP2 in two Neandertals. This gene is of particular interest because it is involved in speech and language and was previously shown to harbor the signature of recent positive selection. The authors found the same two amino-acid substitutions in Neandertals as in modern humans. Assuming that these sites were the targets of selection and no interbreeding between the two groups, they concluded that selection at FOXP2 occurred before the populations split, over 300Kya. Here, we show that the data are unlikely under this scenario but may instead be consistent with low rates of gene flow between modern humans and Neandertals. We also collect additional data and introduce a modeling framework to estimate levels of modern human contamination of the Neandertal samples. We find that, depending on the assumptions, additional control experiments may be needed to rule out contamination at FOXP2.

Re:FOXP2 (5, Informative)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841321)

Yes, it is fascinating, but you have to take into account that FOXP2 is a transcription factor that acts when "collaborating" (dimerising) with other transcription factors (or itself) to regulate a whole range of different genes, which in turn can affect a whole range of physical (phenotypical) features (like speech development). True, people who have a mutation in FOXP2 are normal, but are not able to coordinate the movements required to speak, and this is a quite specific effect. But FOXP2 has definitely other "applications" as well - it is required for correct brain development in general, for example.

This makes any changes (or lack of them) very hard to trace back to specific effects. The fact that neanderthals had the same "version" (allele) of this gene might be an indicator, but then -- it might just be a coincidence. Chimps are just two mutations away.

What complicates the picture even more is the fact that not only the actual sequence of the protein matters -- also the regulatory sites around it (where other transciption factors bind and promote / inhibit the activation of FOXP2). And these tend to be variable even when they work very similarily.

j.

Re:FOXP2 (1)

Muros (1167213) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841593)

Not really all that surprising. Neandethals are known to have had clothing, jewellery, buried their dead in a respectful fashion (sometimes, yes there is also evidence of cannibalism, something modern humans of course have never done...), some evidence of trade, and highly organised hunts. I'd kind of expect them to be able to talk.

Re:FOXP2 (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842037)

Hmmm... Umm... heh... Cool...
So they don't make grunting sounds like humans... Hum.

Re:FOXP2 (1)

OS2toMAC (1327679) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843249)

This makes it more likely that they had proper speech rather than just "grunting" sounds.

Wasn't this already proven with the GEICO commercials?

Ethics and cloning (2, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840771)

This would be a perfect test for cloning, as it would be incredibly interesting to clone these creatures and study them. We could discover their intelligence, learning capability, physical appearance, and other things that can only be guessed at through the fossil record. In the name of science, it behooves us to do such cloning (along with cloning of wooly mammoths and dingos).

The problem would be that, like monkeys, Neanderthals are primates and would probably be the focus of animal rights groups seeking ways to stall the progress of science. Should appearance endow rights? Just because they may look structurally similar to humans, they aren't human.

Re:Ethics and cloning (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840845)

What would you do? Keep them in a lab? How would you justify that?

Re:Ethics and cloning (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840859)

What would you do? Keep them in a lab? How would you justify that?

Public safety.

Re:Ethics and cloning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26841001)

how is that this makes me think of King Kong ? ...

Re:Ethics and cloning (2, Funny)

darinfp (907671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841059)

"What would you do? Keep them in a lab? How would you justify that?"

"Pubic safety"

There, fixed that for you. You sick greedy bastard....

Re:Ethics and cloning (1)

hengist (71116) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841077)

What would you do? Keep them in a lab? How would you justify that?

Put them in parliament. They'd fit right in.

Re:Ethics and cloning (1)

osgeek (239988) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842055)

Depends upon how smart they are. If they're smart enough to move about in society and take care of themselves, then I guess that you have to let them go.

Don't assume the bad guy movie scenario if you don't have to.

Re:Ethics and cloning (1)

LUH 3418 (1429407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26844049)

It's likely that if you cloned one, you'd need to implant his/her DNA into a human egg cell, and also possibly fill some small gaps with human DNA... Considering the neanderthal would be born out of a human woman, have intelligence perhaps not that far from our own, and possibly speech capability...

I say, why not raise it like any human child. Don't lock it in a lab like some scary creature. Just give it an adoptive family, try to raise it like a normal human, and observe its development very closely. There is no way we'd be able to replicate its "natural environment" anyways, so we might as well treat it decently, and learn everything we can that way.

Re:Ethics and cloning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26844051)

Maybe we can shave them and send them to homo sapiens schools. Eerily reminds me of Next by Michael Crichton.

They'd never do it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26840855)

It would be too embarrassing to the politically correct when they turned out to look like, behave like and have superior intelligence to the niggers.

Re:They'd never do it (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26841031)

It would be embarrassing to you if one day you woke up and realized what a jerk you were. But carry on trying to feel superior by making racist remarks suitable for 2nd grade. You probably carry a genetic marker for incurable idiocy. Please don't drool on the way out.

Moron.

Re:Ethics and cloning (4, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840867)

Just because they may look structurally similar to humans, they aren't human.

I really, really hope this is a troll; the same has been said of Jews, Black people, Irish, Native Americans and many more.

Re:Ethics and cloning (3, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843255)

Just because they may look structurally similar to humans, they aren't human.

I really, really hope this is a troll; the same has been said of Jews, Black people, Irish, Native Americans and many more.

Yes, and the same has been said about chimpanzees and gorillas. In those cases the statement is correct. Comparing this to a comment about racism really isn't helpful. We don't really know how bright neanderthals were and we don't really know if they could reproduce with homo sapiens. If they were about as bright as us and are cross-fertile then you'd have a point. Certainly if we could not interbreed then it isn't at all unreasonable to label them a separate species.

Re:Ethics and cloning (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840941)

Humans are animals just like any other. For what reason do we not allow experimenting on humans while we allow it on other animals? Because humans are supposedly much more sentient, superior, a higher life form or whatever crap.
Neanderthals are probably not any different in that way (it is probable, though, they disappeared because we humans killed them off), so why should we allow experimenting on the basis that they're a different species (which means they can still interbreed with humans and produce fertile offspring)?

I'm not against experimenting per-se, even on humans, but the whole "if it's not a homo sapiens, it's alright to do anything with it" is just stupid.

Re:Ethics and cloning (2, Informative)

Weedlekin (836313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841235)

"Neanderthals are probably not any different in that way (it is probable, though, they disappeared because we humans killed them off)"

One _theory_ is that they disappeared because we (or rather, Cro-Magnon Man, who also disappeared around 8,000 BCE) killed them off, but there are plenty of other theories which are equally probable in that none of them have much in the way of supporting evidence. The only real answer to the question of why they died out is therefore the same as the one for so many other extinct lifeforms, i.e. we do not as yet know why they disappeared.

"they're a different species (which means they can still interbreed with humans and produce fertile offspring)"

Nobody as yet knows whether they could interbreed with Cro-Magnon man, or for that matter, other early human ancestor species that existed at the same time (e.g. late period Homo Erectus). It should also be noted that even if we could interbreed, there's a distinct possibility that any offspring would have been sterile, so Neanderthal genes from cross-breeds might not have been passed on to subsequent generations.

A good example to consider here is chimpanzees and their close relatives the bonobos, both of whom are very, very similar to humans at a genetic level. There is however no scientific evidence to suggest that we could successfully interbreed with them using purely natural means (i.e. without some form of genetic engineering), even though some other closely related species such as polar bears and brown bears not only can, but sometimes do interbreed, even in the wild.

Re:Ethics and cloning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26841511)

One _theory_ is that they disappeared because we (or rather, Cro-Magnon Man, who also disappeared around 8,000 BCE) killed them off, but there are plenty of other theories which are equally probable in that none of them have much in the way of supporting evidence.

The real reason of the disapparition of the Neanderthals is that they had the penis too big to reproduce. Or the females weren't enough horny.

Re:Ethics and cloning (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26843415)

or that their understanhood of language wasn't enough good.

Re:Ethics and cloning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26841703)

I think we should test these hypotheses. A lot.

Re:Ethics and cloning (1)

osgeek (239988) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842095)

i.e. we do not as yet know why they disappeared.

Once we clone one, we can just teach him how to talk and ask him what happened.

It's not about appearances (4, Informative)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841347)

It's not just about appearances. The Neanderthals:

- used tools to make other tools. Apes do make improvised tools like sharpening sticks, but only Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens would build a stone axe to use to build a stone spear, and then keep both.

- skinned animals and tanned the skins

- built elaborate shelters out of wood and skins

- used clothes (e.g., made from those skins)

- built (crude) musical instruments. And not just as in "something that makes noise", but as in, for example, a flute which can play more than one note. So they probably had music too.

- had a bit of work specialization, which would also mean a bit more complex a social structure, and possibly even some kind of commerce (at least as in, "I'll make you a strong spear if you give me a leg of antelope.")

- decorated themselves with primitive jewellery and paints (basically early cosmetics)

- had ritual burial, which would indicate some concept of afterlife or at least remorse. (You don't bother burying someone in the same position, and with his weapon, and stuff, unless you expect it to matter somehow.)

Etc.

And according to this research, they probably were as capable of speech as the humans, because they have the same gene.

Oh, and another bit of trivia: they actually had a higher average brain size than Homo Sapiens. And in a smaller body, too. So if we go by the popular brain-mass/body-mass metric, they should actually be a little smarter on the average.

So we're not talking just as in "looks like a human", but something that was definitely just as sentient and self-aware as a human. It could probably not just understand that you're experimenting on it, but understand the experiment if you bother explaining the science behind it.

And if you think that it still makes it ok, because it's still a different species... well, then I'd say your empathy is too broken to be the same as 99% of the humans. You're different. When can we start experimenting on _you_ then?

Re:It's not about appearances (2, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841447)

another bit of trivia: they actually had a higher average brain size than Homo Sapiens. And in a smaller body, too. So if we go by the popular brain-mass/body-mass metric, they should actually be a little smarter on the average.

Tell the court, Bright Eyes, what is the second article of faith?

Re:It's not about appearances (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843197)

I'd say your empathy is too broken to be the same as 99% of the humans. You're different. When can we start experimenting on _you_ then?

Well obviously it meets all of HIS ethical standards.

Re:Ethics and cloning (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842079)

The problem would be that, like monkeys, Neanderthals are primates and would probably be the focus of animal rights groups seeking ways to stall the progress of science. Should appearance endow rights? Just because they may look structurally similar to humans, they aren't human.

This is why it probably won't be done. Cloning a Neanderthal opens up an enormous can of worms. We're able to declare that it's wrong to do certain things to humans, but fine to do the same to animals, because there's a substantial gap between H. Sapiens and the nearest relatives, the chimpanzees. Even so there is serious disquiet over treating the great apes in such a manner, and even experimentation on more distant relatives attracts protest, especially if the animals in question happen to be cute.

That gap between us and the chimpanzee - and hence the rest of the animal kingdom - exists only because all the intermediates are dead and buried. We draw a line in a conveniently empty space. Now we propose to clone a Neanderthal, and ask on which side of the line he falls. If you say he is a man, then what if we now clone H. erectus? H. heidelbergensis? A. Afarensis? Suddenly we don't have a clear-cut boundary between human and nonhuman, but a continuum of clones. Where is the line drawn, and on what grounds? You might end up defining all the hominids as human, Homo, Pan, Gorilla and Pongo together, and rule out experimentation on them all. Then what of other human rights? Votes for Neanderthals - yes? Votes for Chimps - no? A sliding scale of rights based on intellectual capability? Who administers the test?

Our whole society is built on the unspoken, unexamined assumption that we know what is human and what is not. Cloning our ancestors in this way undermines that. Which is why I doubt it will be done any time soon.

Re:Ethics and cloning (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842617)

Maybe Geico wants to fund it?

Re:Ethics and cloning (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843069)

Dude, you aren't thinking big enough.

Reality Show

Send him or her to school, for all we know your neanderclone could come up with a cure for cancer.

60 percent (4, Insightful)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840775)

Doesn't the significance depend hugely on what genes were included in the 60% that have been mapped? We're supposed to share 50% of our DNA with fruit [thingsyoud...toknow.com] , 60% with fruit flies and 98% with chimps, so this incomplete map might tell us absolutely nothing, except that Neanderthal man is closely related to bananas and chimps, and that they were actually overgrown fruit flies.

Re:60 percent (4, Informative)

daniorerio (1070048) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841239)

Actually we share 60% of our genes, not DNA with fruitflies, same for chimps. Which means that for 60% of the genes in our genome you can find a similar gene in fruitflies, although the structure of that particular gene has changed in fruitflies and humans independently over time.

Since neanderthals are much more related to humans one would expect the number of gene orthologs between humans and neanderthals to be between 98% and 100%. All the genes they mapped will probably genes that humans also have, the interesting bits may come from differences in those genes between the two species. And of course the genes that humans have and naederthals not (or vice versa) but my guess is they haven't mapped those yet. It's easier to map a gene if you know what you're looking for (human ortholog).

Re:60 percent (1)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841279)

The term "share XX % DNA" is largely incorrect and misleading. In short, if you have mapped 60% of the genome, you can hardly underestimate the significance of this information. I will try to explain why you are on the wrong track.

1) what is usually meant by that is that "XX % of the sequence is identical". This is not always informative, as during evolution, much of the sequence can mutate neutrally without major changes in the phenotype. Two almost identically looking worms (and also quite similar on molecular level), C. elegans and C. briggsae, have a history of 100 million years. Hey, they had more time to accumulate neutral differences than mouse and humans!

Moreover, if one compares these parts of the DNA that code for a protein (and believe me, they are scattered very thin in our genome), this percentage will be very high compared to everything else. The difference between one region of the genome (say, the one they mapped) and another one (say, the one that is still to be sequenced) is very small when compared with the difference between a coding and non-coding region. So whatever you find out about the genetic distance between species based on 60% of the genome is extremely likely to hold also in the case of the whole genome. More! Usually it is sufficient to sequence a few very well known genes (which Paabo and his group did already a decade ago).

Bottom line: we can extrapolate this "XX% DNA in common" from the part that is already sequence, but anyway this is not what one is really after -- because we know it more or less already.

2) when comparing genomes that are far away, one often looks at the genetic composition -- which genes are present in both genomes? Which are absent in one of them? In case of humans and chimps and neanderthals these sets are / will be strikingly similar, but the differences will be enormously informative.

3) Sometimes the phrase "XX % of the genes in common" refers to alleles, that is, slightly different variants of the same gene (think "blue eyes / brown eyes"). This is why we say that we share 50% genes with our mother and 50% of genes with our father. This is also the type of information that one is after.

What I'm saying is that your reasoning is meaningless because founded on a misunderstanding. The website that you were referring to has a subsection titled "Other DNA facts you don't need to know". I couldn't phrase it better, except by adding that the information is potentially harmful.

j.

Re:60 percent (1)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841895)

I was as surprised as you that my comment was modded Insightful. I thought my assertion that Neanderthals were overgrown fruit flies, closely related to both chimps and their favourite food would have been considered Funny, or at worst ignored. Thanks for the interesting information regarding genes though, biology was never my strong point.

And yes, I know chimps don't actually like bananas as much as we think they do.

Still with us... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26840827)

Why use fossils? Neanderthals are still with us, as Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce [telegraph.co.uk] shows!

photo of neanderthal (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840861)

available here [maximumpc.com]

Great picture (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840883)

I can hear the "wazzzzzuppp" with my speakers off.

Re:photo of neanderthal (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841011)

Awww - I was expecting a picture of George Bush!

well... (1)

doyoulikegoatseeee (930088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840877)

IANAL

That is not what you think :-) (5, Informative)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26840945)

Please, don't. Don't make the jokes on cloning / restoring the Neanderthal. We all know it'd turn out that some of them actually are among us, possibly taking up even prominent positions in our society. Who'd be surprised if the cloned guy looked exactly like the governor of one of US states?

On a serious note, there are a few scientific issues at stake here.

First let me explain this "positive selection" stuff from the article. When a mutation within a coding region of a gene takes place, it can either be a silent mutation (no change in the resulting proteins) due to the redundancy of the genetic code, or it can change the amino acid sequence of the protein and thereby possibly its function.

Now, mutations happen at random. But depending on what kind of an effect the changes have, they might be wiped out by natural selection. For example, mutations in the "core system", the "kernel" of any living cell -- replication machinery usually are wiped out, because the machinery is so finely tuned that most mutations seriously screw it up. If the changes are largely neutral, the ratio of the mutations that have an effect divided by mutations that are silent (so called dN/dS ratio) is roughly equal to what we would expect based on random model, and we speak of neutral evolution.

On the other hand, environmental pressure, change of times, parasite pressure or many other things can lead to an accelerated rate of evolution -- measured by the fraction nonsynonymous mutations / silent mutations. Thus, one can detect whether a species, gene or genome was subjected to a specific pressure. And if we look at the whole genome, we can tell a lot about what this pressure was. And of course, it works both ways -- we can tell a lot about what the pressure was that shaped us, humans.

* of course, learn more about neanderthals -- who were they, did they mix with humans (current analyses say no, but who knows what one can find in the whole genome). Were they human at all? Did they really talk? What kind of culture did they have?

* by learning about divergence between neanderthals and homo sapiens, answer the fundamental questions of biology -- who are we? what makes us different from animals? What made us spread and neanderthals disappear?

* analysis of genome instead of single genes takes the whole thing up one level.

* tracing back evolution (in general, it is not only about human evolution) -- not by comparing sequences of organisms that live nowadays, but really going back in time. Among others, this will let us test the tools that we routinely use for phylogenetic analysis (that is, tracing back the evolution).

Regards,

j. (who currently works on genome evolution in bacteria)

That's not a neanderthal (0, Flamebait)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841135)

If you mean Dubya, I think the word you're looking for is "troglodyte" not "neanderthal". Neanderthals are about 6 million years more advanced on the evolution chain, smarter, and a whole other body shape. Think: literally pear shaped. As in, the rib cage actually flares at the lower end.

Re:That is not what you think :-) (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841311)

In this discourse of tracing back evolution and the cladistic theory, there's one thing I find missing: what about hybrids ? When you have two species that mix to form a new one as an hybrid, like is likely to have happened to many arthropods with larval stages, how do you trace anything back ? An unknown amount of genes got dropped in one single generation. You can't even place the result on a clade [wikipedia.org] ... Why is this issue ignored?

Re:That is not what you think :-) (2, Informative)

jw3 (99683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841369)

Of course it isn't ignored. It's a whole field of research. And yes, there are plenty of tools, some of them quite old (and most of them requiring maths).

Question whether there was some degree of genetic exchange between Neanderthals and humans have been already asked decades ago -- and most probably, already answered. The answer is based on the sequences that have already been obtained and it is a "no".

j.

Re:That is not what you think :-) (1)

Pictish Prince (988570) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842807)

Of course it isn't ignored. It's a whole field of research. And yes, there are plenty of tools, some of them quite old (and most of them requiring maths).

Question whether there was some degree of genetic exchange between Neanderthals and humans have been already asked decades ago -- and most probably, already answered. The answer is based on the sequences that have already been obtained and it is a "no".

j.

It's not nearly as clear-cut as that. That result was obtained by examining the mitochondrial DNA, which is only inherited from the mother. All it shows is that all modern humans have a common female ancestor but Neanderthals were not descended from her.

It says nothing about the nuclear DNA, of which half comes from the father.

Re:That is not what you think :-) (1)

hawkfish (8978) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843081)

It's not nearly as clear-cut as that. That result was obtained by examining the mitochondrial DNA, which is only inherited from the mother. All it shows is that all modern humans have a common female ancestor but Neanderthals were not descended from her.

It says nothing about the nuclear DNA, of which half comes from the father.

Similar things can be done with Y chromosomes. Anyone know if this has been done yet?

Re:That is not what you think :-) (2, Informative)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843551)

Some of the world's leading authorities on Neanderthals disagree with your "no."

In particular, they point to the Lagar Velho skeleton [wustl.edu] .

"the analysis has revealed that the child exhibits distinctive characteristics of both contemporaneous European early modern humans and preceding Neandertals. It therefore provides evidence of previous admixture between Neandertals and early modern humans in southwestern Europe."

Re:That is not what you think :-) (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842895)

If the movie Encino Man [imdb.com] taught me nothing else, it was that bringing back a cavemen can only result in hilarity. And the guys who brought him back would finally get respect from the popular kids too.

Re:That is not what you think :-) (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843121)

* of course, learn more about neanderthals -- who were they, did they mix with humans (current analyses say no, but who knows what one can find in the whole genome). Were they human at all? Did they really talk? What kind of culture did they have?

* by learning about divergence between neanderthals and homo sapiens, answer the fundamental questions of biology -- who are we? what makes us different from animals? What made us spread and neanderthals disappear?

* analysis of genome instead of single genes takes the whole thing up one level.

* tracing back evolution (in general, it is not only about human evolution) -- not by comparing sequences of organisms that live nowadays, but really going back in time. Among others, this will let us test the tools that we routinely use for phylogenetic analysis (that is, tracing back the evolution).

I can't wait for them to either clone one or map it all out find out opps there wasn't any real neanderthal thing at all. It was just one family of humans that could easily interbreed with the rest. Wouldn't the creationists love that. See there wasn't any evolution going on. We've always been human. You've just been racist in calling that branch names to mark their differences with the rest of humanity. Oh, the arguments that could stir up.

How did they convince Mr Ballmer to give a sample? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841005)

Neanderthals Neanderthals Neanderthals Neanderthals Neanderthals Neanderthals

Dance Monkey Boy!

Scientists Map Neanderthal Genome (2, Funny)

R.D.Olivaw (826349) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841053)

Nice, when will it be available for TomTom?

Obligatory ID angle (2, Funny)

olman (127310) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841143)

I wonder what IDers claim neanderthals are supposed to be. Beta versions?

Serious question? (5, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841165)

The serious answer is that they believe that the bone fragments are either human in origin or mocked up from bones of existing apes.

There is no Neanderthal species for ID proponents. The answer is either they are human or they never really existed and the evolutionists are involved in a vast conspiracy to validate their own beliefs by creating these "pre-human" humanoids.

Re:Obligatory ID angle (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841285)

They found out that Piltdown Man was a fake so therefore all the others must be fake too.

No, seriously...

Re:Obligatory ID angle (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842247)

I wonder what IDers claim neanderthals are supposed to be. Beta versions?

All hominid fossils are either humans, or apes. Never anything intermediate between the two. Which is which, well... that depends who you ask. [talkorigins.org]

Re:Obligatory ID angle (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842995)

When dealing with Creationists (which IDers are really), remember that there are two groups:

1. Young Earth Creationists. These folks think that the world is about 6,000 years old. Any fossils found, they claim, don't come from creatures but were placed there by God to test us. If you don't believe the evidence in front of you, then you've passed the test. Personally, I would hope that, any God there might be wouldn't be so messed up as to give us intelligence, and then place evidence in front of us that "leads us astray" if we use our intelligence on it.

2. "Old Earth" Creationists. These creationists will admit that the Earth is far older than 6,000 years old. They'll admit that fossils are the remains of ancient creatures. However, they won't admit that one creature can turn into another one. To them, Neanderthal man was created by God as Neanderthal man and killed off as Neanderthal man. He didn't evolve from anything nor did he evolve into anything. To them, all species are set in stone. They can pop into being or fade away, but they can't change into something else. Of course, this ignores all evidence like whale transition fossils or the moths of Europe during the Industrial era. Still, these creationists are experts at ignoring evidence. They're not as overt about it as the Young Earthers. They don't make claims of a Trickster God. Instead, they simply claim that the evidence doesn't exist. They repeat it over and over no matter how many times their arguments are shot down.

neanderthale genome (1)

pitje (1083069) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841439)

good to know G.W. has been good for something

Re:neanderthale genome (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841515)

Be fair: G.W. is no Neanderthal. Neanderthals were generally pretty stocky, and he's rather skinny.

Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand ...

The sentence in the article with intrigued me. (2, Insightful)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26841953)

"Why they died out is a matter of furious debate, because they co-existed alongside modern man."

Thing is.

Hasn't the author noticed that "co-existing alongside modern man" is not good for one's health?

Perhaps the sentence should have read:

"Why they died out is a matter of furious debate, although the probable reason is that they co-existed alongside modern man, which is a species known to be (a) warlike, (b) greedy, (c) bloodthirsty, and (d) in general dangerous to the health of other species, most of which it has eliminated from the face of the earth.

Re:The sentence in the article with intrigued me. (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842307)

Feh. Their chicks were ugly and they kept on taking our food out of the fridge without replacing it.

They had to die.

Re:The sentence in the article with intrigued me. (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842399)

Well, regarding point d, be fair: the biggest cause of extinction occurred at the Permian-Triassic boundary and still hasn't been identified.

And there is an argument that a lot of the domesticated species, such as corn or dogs, have evolved over the last 20,000 years or so to form a symbiotic system with humans: we protect them for a while, give them ideal conditions, and make sure they reproduce, and in return we get food. So humans aren't too dangerous to be around if you're a species humans can make good use of. At least, not more dangerous than having a tiger in the area.

Re:The sentence in the article with intrigued me. (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842403)

Extermination by Cro-Magnon invaders is an attractive idea; it certainly fits with what we see in about every other ecosystem when humans move into it. The problem with that is that in some areas, Neanderthals coexisted alongside modern man for about twenty thousand years. That's way too long; when modern man exterminates a species, he does it fast. If our ancestors considered Neanderthals monsters and slew them wherever they found them, then they should have vanished almost overnight.

Clone one (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26842499)

If I were a billionare, I would be tempted to hire somebody to clone one. Likewise, to bring back some of the extinct mammals such as Woolly Mammoth.

Why use fossils? (2, Funny)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843061)

Can't they just get a DNA sample from the nearest redneck?

Re:Why use fossils? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843509)

I was thinking Republican.

Oh, so... (1)

nicodoggie (1228876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26843813)

...they're using a politician's DNA as a reference, or what?
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