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article imageWhat gave modern humans an advantage over Neanderthals?

By Tim Sandle     May 11, 2014 in Science
Modern humans (Homo sapiens) lived alongside Neanderthals. What was it in the genetic makeup of humans that gave them the advantage to survive, whilst Neanderthals did not?
Little is known about the unique genetic makeup of humans as distinguished from Neanderthals. Even less is known about the epigenetic differences. Genetics deals with the DNA sequence itself and the heritable changes in the DNA (mutations), epigenetics deals with heritable traits that are not caused by mutations. The epigenetic regulatory layer controls where, when and how genes are activated, and is some scientists think that it is behind many of the differences between human groups.
A science group have have reconstructed what they think is the epigenome of the Neanderthal. By comparing this ancient epigenome with that of modern humans, the researchers think that they have identified genes whose activity had changed only in humans. It is these differences, they argue, that led to humans surviving.
Among those genetic pattern changes, many are expressed in brain development. Numerous changes were also observed in the immune and cardiovascular systems, whereas the digestive system remained relatively unchanged. This could for the basis of further research.
The findings have been published in the journal Science, in a paper titled "Reconstructing the DNA Methylation Maps of the Neandertal and the Denisovan."
More about Neanderthals, Humans, Homo sapiens, Genetics
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