Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The first comparison of human and Neanderthal DNA shows that the two lineages diverged about 400,000 years ago and that Neanderthals may have had more DNA in common with chimps than with modern humans.
There is ongoing debate over whether the Neanderthals were a separate species, Homo neanderthalensis, or a subspecies of Homo sapiens. The first Neanderthals are thought to have emerged about 350,000 years ago, so the new findings from this DNA analysis strongly favour the theory that modern humans and Neanderthals share a common ancestor but are not more closely related than that.
Genetic analysis of Neanderthals is very tricky because mere fragments of nuclear DNA have been recoverable from fossils. Previous analyses have focused on mitochondrial DNA samples, which survive better.
...James Noonan will present the findings at the American Society of Human Genetics meeting in New Orleans, US, this week. [Science, Chimpanzees, Evolution, Neandertal, Neandertals]
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