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Neandertal Genome

May 24, 2010

A draft sequence of the Neandertal genome sheds light on the question of whether or not our extinct relatives interbred with ancient humans.


Neandertals and humans…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

You’ve probably heard that scientists have now sequenced the genome of our extinct Neandertal relatives. Svante Pääbo is director of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. His team compared the Neandertal genetic code to that of living humans. The analysis revealed that after modern humans left Africa, they probably interbred more extensively with Neanderthals than previously thought.

SVANTE PÄÄBO (Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology):
We find that this applies to all people outside Africa, no matter where they live, even in China and Papua New Guinea. So, it suggests a population that goes out of Africa and becomes ancestral to everyone outside of Africa, not just people in Europe and Western Asia where Neandertals occurred.

The next step is to tease out how the genetic differences set Neandertals apart from modern humans. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.