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Neanderthal DNA 99.5% Similar To Humans

By Chris V. Thangham     Feb 16, 2009 in Environment
Researchers unveiled the first draft of the Neanderthal genome and compared it to humans. They have genomes that are 99.5 percent similar to modern humans.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany have unveiled the first draft of the Neanderthal genome.
The genome has its hereditary information stored in DNA. The genome is the full set of genes that give rise to a particular species.
Neanderthals and human family trees split from each other about 450,000 years ago, according to anthropologists. And so far they haven’t found any mixing between the two species despite living together for more than 400,000 years. Neanderthals became extinct about 30,000 years ago leaving the chimpanzee our closest living relative.
By unveiling this first draft, researchers want to see how well it compares with modern humans and chimpanzees and see which genes changed over the years, giving the humans a distinct advantage over other species.
Jean-Jacques Hubin, a project collaborator for this research told National Geographic:
Studying the Neanderthal genome will tell us what makes modern humans really modern, and really human.
The genome sequence of Neanderthal shows that humans’ and Neanderthals’ genomes are 99.5 percent identical.
It took four years for the researchers to sequence 3.7 billion base pairs in the Neanderthal genome, out of which they have read only about 60 percent of the genes.
Initial analysis shows that humans and Neanderthal share the same version of a “language gene” called FOXP2 according to team leader Svante Pääbo from Max Planck Institute. This gene helps develop the language skills in the species implying that Neanderthal could talk as well as humans.
Pääbo told National Geographic:
Although there are many genes involved in language...there's no reason to say that they couldn't articulate the way that we do.
They also found that Neanderthals were lactose intolerant. They were unable to drink milk after they were weaned according to Pääbo.
Researchers will be doing more analysis and comparisons and see how Neanderthal changed over the years in comparison to modern humans.
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