Analysis of one million base pairs of Neanderthal DNA

Today on NATURE

"Neanderthals are the extinct hominid group most closely related to contemporary humans, so their genome offers a unique opportunity to identify genetic changes specific to anatomically fully modern humans. We have identified a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal fossil that is exceptionally free of contamination from modern human DNA. Direct high-throughput sequencing of a DNA extract from this fossil has thus far yielded over one million base pairs of hominoid nuclear DNA sequences. Comparison with the human and chimpanzee genomes reveals that modern human and Neanderthal DNA sequencesdiverged on average about 500,000 years ago. Existing technology and fossil resources are now sufficient to initiate a Neanderthal genome-sequencing effort."

"Neanderthals were first recognized as a distinct group of hominids from fossil remains discovered 150 years ago at Feldhofer in Neander Valley, outside Dusseldorf, Germany. Subsequent Neanderthal finds in Europe and western Asia showed that fossils with Neanderthal traits appear in the fossil record of Europe and western Asia about 400,000 years ago and vanish about 30,000 years ago. Over this period they evolved morphological traits that made them progressively more distinct from the ancestors of modern humans that were evolving in Africa. For example, the crania of late Neanderthals have protruding mid-faces, brain cases that bulge outward at the sides, and features of the base of the skull, jaw and inner ears that set them apart from modern humans."
Read the Full article in .pdf: Nature.com

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