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Neanderthal Roundup

December 8, 2006

Little is known about the Neanderthals, a close extinct relative of modern humans. But that could be about to change.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
News about Neanderthals. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Neanderthals were closely related to modern humans, and for a time coexisted with us. Now in the journals Nature and Science, two teams report that they have been able to sequence DNA from an exceptionally well preserved Neatherthal bone. One team hopes to have a rough draft of the entire Neanderthal genome in two years. Comparing that to human and chimpanzee genomes will help scientists discover the genetic traits that make humans unique.

They should also be able to discover if humans and Neanderthals ever interbred. Although evidence suggests it happened very little, scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that one variant of the human gene microcephalin may have originated in Neanderthals. Microcephalin’s thought to regulate brain growth, but no one’s sure what role the variant might play.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.