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Deciphering the DNA Code of Neanderthal Man

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the hey-good-buddy dept.

188

smooth wombat writes "U.S. and German scientists have embarked on a two-year long project to map the genetic code of Neanderthal man. Their hope is to gain a greater understanding of how modern human brains evolved. This study comes after last years completion of mapping the DNA of chimpanzees, our closest living relative." From the article: "Over two years, the scientists aim to reconstruct a draft of the 3 billion building blocks of the Neanderthal genome -- working with fossil samples from several individuals. They face the complication of working with 40,000-year-old samples, and of filtering out microbial DNA that contaminated them after death. Only about 5 percent of the DNA in the samples is actually Neanderthal DNA, Egholm estimated, but he and Rothberg said pilot experiments had convinced them that the decoding was feasible."

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188 comments

For the last time! (-1, Flamebait)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758453)

We didn't evolve from monkeys! God made us with love :) Monkey's exist because he screwed up a few times till he got it right.

http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]

Re:For the last time! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15758515)

Speaking of "For the last time!", will you *please* put your stupid link to your stupid site in your sig, instead of making us read it with every uninformed post you make on every goddamn topic!

Re:For the last time! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15758550)

Oh shut your cake-hole.

Re:For the last time! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15758782)

I agree with the gp, for the love of natalie portman, stop it.

No I am not a sockpuppet.

For the last time! (indeed) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15759514)

Monkey's exist because he screwed up a few times till he got it right.
I think you mean he SCREWED a few monkeys to make human.

Sheesh.. (5, Funny)

vancondo (986849) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758464)

You people, with your 'facts' and 'figures'.. 40,000 year old samples?!

ridiculous.

Everybody knows that the earth is only 27 years old. [diabolicalplan.com]

Living Neanderthals Exist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15759118)

Why would anyone waste time on contaminated DNA from long dead Neanderthals when actual living Neanderthals exist?

Just visit the local chapter of the Republican party. It has plenty of Neanderthals -- with fresh DNA.

I wish they would instead do something more useful (-1, Flamebait)

freddie (2935) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758467)

like decoding the DNA and cloning the wolly mammoth. Unlike the neantherthal man, the wolly mammoth came with a lot of ivory, warm wool, and big bones that primitive men could use as construction material.

On the other hand, if they ever find the neantherthal DNA, if it exists. I wonder how they are going to spin it to claim that it supports evolution. That could be histericcal

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (1)

krell (896769) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758486)

...at this point, everything found in biology supports evolution.

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758682)

. . . if they ever find the neantherthal DNA, if it exists.

I might suggest they have a look around my neighbor's house.

KFG

your neighbor - a neanderthal, too? (1)

Nesetril (969734) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758978)

looks like we all live on the same block! you know what that means of course... block party! neanderthals not invited.

Re:your neighbor - a neanderthal, too? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759066)

looks like we all live on the same block!

I was afraid of that, but on further examination it appears that my neighbors are merely overfed habilis who steal their fire from the erectus on the other side.

KFG

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (1)

Roody Blashes (975889) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758740)

I wonder how they are going to spin it to claim that it supports evolution.

That statement doesn't make any sense. Even ignoring the fact that you're preconcieving of what people you don't know might say about something you apparently don't understand, if it becomes another piece of evidence to toss on that outrageously huge pile of proof for our current evolutionary models, they wont' have to "spin" anything, and if they do try to "spin" something that isn't so, all the evolutionary biologists, being at no loss for evidence by any stretch of the imagination, will immediately climb all over each other to tear them to pieces for the purpose of increased visibility in the field.

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (2, Informative)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758835)

and if they do try to "spin" something that isn't so, all the evolutionary biologists, being at no loss for evidence by any stretch of the imagination, will immediately climb all over each other to tear them to pieces for the purpose of increased visibility in the field.

Just like they did with the Piltdown Man [wikipedia.org]?

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (1)

Roody Blashes (975889) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759204)

I fail to see what position you are attempting to argue from. Are you trying to discredit my statement that researchers will disprove false statements by highlighting an event in which researchers disproved false statements? Or, perhaps, you are trying to argue that scientific inquiry is flawed because there is imperfection in humanity that must be recognized and overcome manually?

Either way, your argument is fatally flawed and nonsensical. You could just as well argue that knowledge of phsyics is fatally flawed because of the proposal of aether [wikipedia.org]. Yet, here we are, a space-faring species of life that can even peer nearly to the edge of universe. For a group of people who must, by your argument, be so wholly ignorant of light's properties, we sure do manage and exploit it pretty well, wouldn't you agree?

Any argument against evolution that relies on mistakes and lies from the past - especially those that have been recognized and corrected - is as patently ridiculous as it gets. Your argument is logically absurd, and if you continue to press it, I propose that you too might well be absurd and your opinion on the matter be little more valuable to rational people than that of a diseased chimpanzee.

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (0, Flamebait)

brit74 (831798) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758901)

On the other hand, if they ever find the neantherthal DNA, if it exists. I wonder how they are going to spin it to claim that it supports evolution.
Well, creationists have been claiming that neanderthals were actually just humans. Enough DNA studies have been done on neanderthals to show that human mitochondrial DNA and neanderthal mitochondrial DNA is actually rather different - much smaller than the difference between humans and chimps, but different enough to show that humans and neanderthals were separate linages who didn't interbreed to any significant degree (and probably not at all). A more extensive study, I'm sure, will reinforce this fact, and creationists will continue ignoring the facts as usual. Apparently, creationists don't like the idea of God creating such a human-like creature because it harms the uniqueness of human-beings, it also raises questions about why God would create a "dead-end" species such as the neanderthals. Of course, evolution has no problem with the existence of neanderthals as a separate species.

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (1)

hawkfish (8978) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759394)

it also raises questions about why God would create a "dead-end" species such as the neanderthals
While I agree with your rant about fundamentalists, I'd mention that other Christians have no problem with this idea. In C.S.Lewis' novel Perelandra, the main character is informed that species do come to an end, and that to wish otherwise is pretty dysfunctional.

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (1)

tgibbs (83782) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758921)

On the other hand, if they ever find the neantherthal DNA, if it exists. I wonder how they are going to spin it to claim that it supports evolution.

It sounds like you've been suckered by the propaganda campaign of the Discovery Institute to convince the public that there is still a real debate among biologists regarding the validity of evolution.

The reality is that scientists are about as interested in looking for additional evidence to support evolution as physicists are in looking for additional evidence to support the existence of gravity. Both are regarded as long-settled issues. It is certainly true that such studies in principle have the potential to disprove evolution, if the genome of neanderthals turns out to be dramatically different from humans and apes, but considering the overwhelming evidence already available to support evolution, scientists regard that as about as likely as studying a new metal alloy and discovering that it falls up.

You don't get any credit for confirming what people already know, so when this work is actually published, you won't see anything in the paper about confirming evolution--it will concern the fine details of when neanderthals split off from other primates.

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759012)

if they ever find the neantherthal DNA, if it exists.

Of course it exists. And its still in the gene pool. Haven't you seen all those people with unibrows? :-)

On a side note - check out all the actors who have plucked their unibrows. Salma Hayek, Colin Farrell, Angie Harmon ...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monobrow [wikipedia.org]

Re:I wish they would instead do something more use (4, Informative)

Bowling Moses (591924) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759158)

There currently are efforts underway to clone the wooly mammoth, which you can read about in the National Geographic [nationalgeographic.com]

You can read about neanderthals from a number of different sites, wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has a pretty decent page, as does talkorigins [talkorigins.org] on hominid evolution in general. Reconstructing the neanderthal genome will be of great interest to science and medicine. Based on the morphology of the fossil remains and their location chronologically, evolution makes some very specific predictions about what that reconstructed genome should look like. It should be highly similar to modern H. sapiens sapiens, much more so than the couple of percent difference between our genome and chimps. If it isn't, then the theory of evolution has a very bad problem. There will not be any spin about it one way or another from the scientific community--just facts and reasonable interpretation. The neanderthal genome, if reconstructed, will also be informative on some issues such as whether or not they interbreed with H. sapiens sapiens, time of divergence with the same, and may also provide highly detailed information about their ability to speak and possibly higher brain function, which will likely be of medical interest.

No, what'll be more "histericcal" is how leading Intelligent Design pushers/Creationists will spin yet another blow to their superstition.

ad-word-tizzy (3, Interesting)

wheatking (608436) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758481)

this and yesterday's article in NYT by the same author (Nicholas Wade) look like placed (indirectly paid for to some PR mavens) ads for 454 lifesciences (if named after the famous chevy engine, a helluva name for a company). 454, having built a fair-to-middling sequencer is trying hard to stay alive in a race to the $1000 genome that will not be won by them or solexa, another startup given their slow pace and limited read lengths of the base pairs. nothing new here. move on folks.

Sweet (2, Funny)

CtrlPhreak (226872) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758490)

We can have those cavemen all cloned and show up like in the geico comemrcials!

It'll be great they can be all hairy and be pissed off at the world. Kinda reminds me of my neighbor...

And No... (1, Funny)

Chatmag (646500) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758507)

Neanderthal man did not run on Linux.

Re:And No... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15758762)

They were running Windows? No wonder they became extinct.

Definitive post on Neandertal Decoding (4, Interesting)

kkamrani (882365) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758527)

This link, "Announcing a two year Neandertal genome decoding project [anthropology.net]" links to several science blogger's take on this anouncement including a definited Neandertal sequencing post by John Hawks.

Re:Definitive post on Neandertal Decoding (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759381)

Definitely interesting, highly contradictory though. The blog directly linked to claims that the neandertal DNA is being found in the bacteria - that the bacteria had somehow made it a part of its own DNA. This seems highly improbable. Bacterial DNA can do strange things, but absorbing large chunks of neandertal DNA is almost certainly not one of them.


The other descriptions imply that it's contamination through questionable extraction techniques - they're grinding up the fossils, so ALL the DNA in the sample will be mixed together, and strands may well end up getting broken, making it much harder to sequence correctly.


Sequencing fossil DNA is certainly possible, and is extremely desirable, but the approach seems... odd. The BBC article, for example, claims that they're going to look for the genes that differentiate modern humans from neandertals, such as mental capacity. Given that we don't fully understand what "mental capacity" actually means, or indeed what mental capacity neandertals actually had, they would need to be looking for an unknown difference to identify an entirely theoretical and totally unquantifiable distinction. That's not good science.


Lastly, we know from studies of neandertal mtDNA that there was a large genetic diversity. Far larger than had been suspected, prior to that study. If these scientists are taking neandertal nucleic DNA from significantly different regions and/or times, they cannot be certain that the nucleic DNA had not evolved or otherwise differed to the point where direct comparison or simple in-lining of the genes would make no sense whatsoever.


This is a good research project, but I am highly uncertain of their methods and am not convinced it will yield meaningful results. Because repeat studies will be difficult to do, this is an area where those involved HAVE to take extra care to put their results beyond question. This care is NOT being taken, based on what I'm seeing.

Hope they're good at math (0, Offtopic)

bigtimepie (947401) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758535)

I hope those scientists are good at math, unlike whoever made that 2+2=5 slashdot image. Otherwise it'll probably take longer than expected.

This is going to end badly (3, Funny)

iambarry (134796) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758537)

Didn't I see this in a movie?

Maybe scientists should get out more. First they sequence the Neanderthals DNA. Next, they'll be cloning one. Then the clone's start multiplying. Finally they take over the earth. Isn't this obvious to anyone else, or is it just me?

nipping the problem in the bud. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758564)

"Then the clone's start multiplying"

If we refuse to teach them addition, I think we can nip the multiplication problem in the bud. That, and pass a law prohibiting our neanderthal cousins from owning calculators.

Re:This is going to end badly (4, Interesting)

MrFlibbs (945469) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758931)

Don't laugh. Richard Dawkins predicts that "the missing link" will be born by the middle of this century. He has an essay on this in a book titled "The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century". This is an interesting book consisting of 25 speculative essays by leading scientists in various fields.

Dawkins' argument is that Moore's Law will eventually make the sequencing of genomes cheap enough to be routine. He speculates that a large database of hominid genomes plus expected advances in gene manipulation would support the creation of pre-human DNA. Once this is done, an implanted embryo with the new DNA could be inserted into a human womb, and out pops the new (old?) species. If Dawkins is correct, then other non-human species such as Neanderthals are also potentially viable.

In the essay, Dawkins briefly discusses the moral implications of such a task. He concludes that any objections are easily overcome by the great service to mankind in proving the correctness of the Theory of Evolution.

Re:This is going to end badly (2, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759044)

The female neanderthal's pelvis was extremely wide, which has led to speculation that their babies had a longer gestation period than humans (maybe 12 months), and were born bigger and less helpless. Even assuming the human host mother was going to deliver by C-section, I'm not sure you could delay birth that long.

But it's wild to imagine the problems it would cause for society. If you could produce beings from anywhere along the spectrum from animal to human, at what point do you let it vote? At what point do the religious leaders decide it has a soul?

In the essay, Dawkins briefly discusses the moral implications of such a task. He concludes that any objections are easily overcome by the great service to mankind in proving the correctness of the Theory of Evolution.
Huh? It's already been proved, to anyone who's willing to accept scientific evidence. More scientific evidence isn't going to convince the rest of the population.

Re:This is going to end badly (1)

sunwukong (412560) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759325)

at what point do you let it vote?

Depending on the political climate, whether or not it switched on either Fox or PBS.

Its slightly different to our own sequencing (0)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758573)

UG-UG BAM-BAM

Re:Its slightly different to our own sequencing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15758776)

Haha - brillant, mate!

Re:Its slightly different to our own sequencing (1)

Upaut (670171) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758963)

UG-UG BAM-BAM

Well, given that neaderthal man had larger braincase, and either a same-size, to larger brain. And given that, given the shorter vocal box, and a larger nasal cavity, they had a higher, more nasal voice. And given that they were stockier , yet much stronger, then modern man...

What I see here is the rise of (possibly) highly intelligent, nasal, and strong individuals with thicker hair...

I for one welcome our new Jock-Nerd overloards...

Re:Its slightly different to our own sequencing (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759597)

Gah! How the heck do you bypass the lameness filter and get all caps? I tried a hundred way to make an OGG THE OPEN SOURCE CAVEMAN post, and nothing seemed to work.

According to their digestive enzymes... (5, Funny)

jpellino (202698) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758597)

.. they lived almost exclusively on a diet of roast duck with mango salsa.

Re:after reading about their digestive enzymes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15758898)

I don't have much an appetite.

panzee ? (1)

middlemen (765373) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758609)

chimpanzees, our closest living relative
I am wondering if the word "pansy" came from "chimpanzee" or vice versa ?

Re:panzee ? (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758681)

Well given that an adult male chimp is three times stronger than an adult male human I would be very careful about calling one a pansy

Re:panzee ? (1)

stormi (837687) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758881)

I think it came from the flower that is called a pansy, comparing gay males to a delicate feminine flower.

After decoding (2, Funny)

dreadlord76 (562584) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758642)

They will superimpose the DNA image on current human DNA, and find the following message:

"We apologize for all the inconveniences"

Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (2, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758675)

...the evolution of DNA in Homo Sapiens gave them a larger and more complex brain, as well as a larger larynx in order for them to speak deeply, clearly and forcefully.
Neanderthal man, on the contrary, sounded wimpy and nasal.
Neanderthals were hated by other humanoids, and were killed off due to their annoying, high-pitched voices.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neandertal [wikipedia.org]
A recent study conducted on the Neanderthal hyoid found that due to the physical characteristics of Neanderthals and the fact that their larynx would have been stouter than that of the modern human, the average note emitted by Neanderthals would have been high pitched and sharper than that of modern man, contrary to the media stereotype of Neanderthals having ape-like grunts.
The base of the Neanderthal tongue was positioned higher in the throat, crowding the mouth somewhat. As a result, Neanderthal speech would most likely have been nasalized.

Re:Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758770)

A recent study conducted on the Neanderthal hyoid found that due to the physical characteristics of Neanderthals and the fact that their larynx would have been stouter than that of the modern human, the average note emitted by Neanderthals would have been high pitched and sharper than that of modern man, contrary to the media stereotype of Neanderthals having ape-like grunts.

So, basically they would have sounded (or will sound) like this [orbitcast.com].

Re:Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758820)

So, basically they would have sounded (or will sound) like this [Richard Simmons].

Yes, they also had a collection of hunting/gathering songs called - 'Sweatin' to the Ancients'

Re:Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758957)

Neanderthals were hated by other humanoids, and were killed off due to their annoying, high-pitched voices.

The thought occurs that you substituted "French" for "Neanderthals" and changed "killed off" to "killed" it would still be true.

Re:Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (3, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759109)

...the evolution of DNA in Homo Sapiens gave them a larger and more complex brain,
Nope, the average neanderthal had a bigger brain than the average human. However, both neanderthals and our own ancestors don't appear to have achieved any real level of culture until relatively recently in history; their artifacts don't show any specialization or innovation over tens of thousands of years, and they all come from local stone, indicating a lack of trade. The onset of culture didn't have anything to do with an increase in brain size (which didn't change over that short period). It may have had to do with something like the foxp2 [wikipedia.org] gene, which is crucial for developing complex language. It's possible to make up a lot of stories, and nobody knows which is right. It's possible, for example, that humans first crowded out neanderthals because we were skinnier and could survive on less food, and only later developed speech and culture.

Re:Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759353)

I guess it is up to scientific speculation...

From Wikipedia...
Their brain sizes have been estimated as larger than modern humans, but their brains may in fact have been approximately the same as those of modern humans.

I stand (upright) corrected.

Re:Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759417)

their artifacts don't show any specialization or innovation over tens of thousands of years


If scientists find evidence of chair-flinging as a sport, this would truly explain a lot.

Re:Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759606)

I guess it could also be because the Neanderthals were having muchstouter body compared to us.
Basic human physiology, with a stouter body causes for quite a bit of internal heat production.

And also that the ice age was getting over at that precise period.

We being much thinner, can survive heat much better. These guys couldnt.

Since getting heat is easy (wear animal skins ?? ), but cooling off is not (no AC at that time)

Many factors..

Re:Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759272)

Can you imagine a race of people who are bigger than you, yet talk like Elmo? I'd want to kill them off too.

Re:Neanderthal Man went extinct because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15759327)

One of them was heavyweight champion of the world for a while...

Simple (1)

nephillim (980798) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758739)

This should be so simple, even a caveman could do it.



..... I'm sorry. we had no idea you people were still arround!

Fossil samples? (1)

bunhed (208100) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758754)

That seems like a lot of work when there are plenty of living examples down at my local pub.

Great! Now we're prepared for the next ice age!! (1)

lordsony (916205) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758767)

This is great news! First scientists intended to bring the mammal back to life, after they extracted mammal-dna in a frozen mammal in sibiria - unfortunately they failed in their quest, because elephants couldn't serve as a "mother" for an implanted egg..

Now seeing how we consequently destroy our fragile climate and a possibly ice age not too far down the road, we can safely survive!!

So, if it gets too chilly for you and your possible kids just convince your wife (im assuming you're male here - it's slashdot after all - and i hope you even got a woman ;-)) to get one of her eggs to be fertilized by a neanderthal-sperm! After all, this "race"(not the right term, but correct nonetheless) of human beings (and your future kids!!) will be perfectly adopted to living in the ice age!

Of course you'll have to throw all of that stuff about ethics away, but hey - everything comes at a price!

Pick-up lines (1)

krell (896769) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758780)

" convince ... to get one of her eggs to be fertilized by a neanderthal-sperm!"

I bet you really score with these pick-up lines, don't you?

Re:Great! Now we're prepared for the next ice age! (1)

bpalmer (568917) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759040)

mammal = Any of various warm-blooded vertebrate animals of the class Mammalia, including humans, characterized by a covering of hair on the skin and, in the female, milk-producing mammary glands for nourishing the young.

mammoth = Any of various large, hairy, extinct elephants of the genus Mammuthus, especially the woolly mammoth.

Re:Great! Now we're prepared for the next ice age! (1)

lordsony (916205) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759344)

Uuuups! Sorry didn't do that on purpose - that's just what happens, when you live to close the dutch border!

Spielberg already has the rights to... (1)

jpellino (202698) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758783)

... Jurassic Dork!

(Yes, yes, I know, there were no hominids in the jurassic - it's a joke...)

Re:Spielberg already has the rights to... (1)

mrscorpio (265337) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758878)

Well, according to some religious sects, man and dinosaurs roamed the earth together at the beginning of earth about 6,000 years ago....

Details (3, Informative)

Raindance (680694) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758855)

Here's some background that isn't apparent from the article. The CNN piece talks about Neanderthals in the context of understanding brain evolution, but the million dollar question- in most scientists' minds- is whether Neanderthals and early modern humans interbred, after 500,000 years of separation. It seems at least possible: lions and tigers produce fertile offspring and they diverged 2 million years ago. As the New York Times states [nytimes.com],

        "A longstanding dispute among archaeologists is whether the modern humans who first entered Europe 45,000 years ago, ultimately from Africa, interbred with the Neanderthals or forced them into extinction. Interbreeding could have been genetically advantageous to the incoming humans, says Bruce Lahn, a geneticist at the University of Chicago, because the Neanderthals were well adapted to the cold European climate -- the last ice age had another 35,000 years to run -- and to local diseases.

        Evidence from the human genome suggests some interbreeding with an archaic species, Dr. Lahn said, which could have been Neanderthals or other early humans."

Now, nobody really knows much at this point. But something that I found interesting was that, via John Hawks [johnhawks.net], "Neandertals will be within the human range of variation for most genes." And the "pilot experiments" Rothberg mentioned is a reference to how their team sequenced the DNA of the cave bear as a test-run. As I understand it this was mostly to convince museums that grinding up some of their prize Neanderthal fossils in the name of research was a good idea. :)

The cama. (2, Interesting)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759480)

Here's some background that isn't apparent from the article. The CNN piece talks about Neanderthals in the context of understanding brain evolution, but the million dollar question- in most scientists' minds- is whether Neanderthals and early modern humans interbred, after 500,000 years of separation. It seems at least possible: lions and tigers produce fertile offspring and they diverged 2 million years ago.

I have always had trouble understanding why some scientists flatly deny that interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans would have even been possible. Interbreeding between species seperated by longer periods of evolution than 2 million years is possible. Some boffins in Dubai actually managed to produce a living camel/lama hybrid. They had to use artificial insemenation but the result was a living hybrid (which they called a 'cama') and camels and lamas are seperated by 40 million years of evolution. It would seem to me that Neanderthals and modern humans probably could interbreed, in light of what history tells us about human nature it would be strange if they didn't and the only question is: Would the resulting individuals have been fertile? If they weren't it might explain why no Neanderthal DNA has survived in the modern human genome. I will certainly be interested in whether or not this DNA mapping/reconstruction effort succeeds.

Closest living relative? (3, Funny)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758900)

chimpanzees, our closest living relative.

I don't know about you guys but my closest living relative is probably my mother or maybe my father.

Re:Closest living relative? (1)

TRS80NT (695421) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759143)

Maybe if you're an only child. Otherwise it's your brother(s) and sister(s).


Re:Closest living relative? (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759561)

Well, this is an interesting story. You can be sure that you share (roughly) 50 % with your biological parents. A brother might, highly theoretically, share only the mitochondrial DNA with his sisters.

Re:Closest living relative? (1)

FeatherBoa (469218) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759630)

Maybe if you're an only child. Otherwise it's your brother(s) and sister(s).

Brother(s) and sister(s) share 50% on average but could be more or less. Identical twins, obviously, 100%. You share with parents 50% nuclear DNA each way.

Men share more with their mum because practically speaking, the Y chromosome from dad has nothing much in it, and all the X chromosome goodness is from mummy.

For either sex, mitochondrial DNA is all from mumsie.

Darwin's Radio (1)

stormi (837687) | more than 6 years ago | (#15758953)

Just like the book, soon we will realize that as we have evolved from Neanderthols due to an ancient virus trapped in our DNA, so will the next group evolve from us. And they'll have neat colored patches of skin, and can say several sentences at once. o.O http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin's_Radio [wikipedia.org]

I'm confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15758964)


the scientists aim to reconstruct a draft of the 3 billion building blocks of the Neanderthal genome

Why would they do that when there's a live specimen [microsoft.com] availiable? I can't help but wonder if this is some kind clean room implementation, the kind where the room is cleaned of chairs?

Modern day example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15759082)

Couldn't they just use Vin Diesel's DNA?

I have done a this as well (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759184)

I have first decipherd it and then re-calculated the output. Put that data through several checks and the outcome was 42.

Pigmy chimp (2, Informative)

booch (4157) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759207)

The closest living relative to human beings is not the common chimpanzee. It's the bonobo [wikipedia.org], also known as the pigmy chimpanzee. Interesting creatures, with even more interesting sex lives.

Re:Pigmy chimp (2, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759444)

The closest living relative to human beings is not the common chimpanzee. It's the bonobo,
Nope. Chimps and bonobos form a clade together, and their common ancestor split off from our branch at the same time.

First words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#15759235)

They already cloned a Neanderthal... his first words were "Atuk zug-zug Alana"

An evil song (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#15759649)

This is the song that made me stop listening to Dr. Demento:
I'm a neanderthal man.
You're a neanderthal girl.
Let's make neanderthal love,
In this neanderthal world.
Repeat about 1,000 times, with a chord change or two.
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