For the very first time, scientists have sequenced the entire genome of a Neanderthal, by extracting a tiny sliver of bone from a toe bone that was found in Siberia in 2010 and applying DNA sequencing processes. Earlier Neanderthal DNA experiments, including some by the same team, have created databases of partial genome maps, but the new effort means that the Neanderthal genome is now mapped as well as we are.
The data is likely to prove extremely useful. Neanderthals are thought to have been a separate branch in the history of human development, separating from other early human species before 350,000 years ago in Europe. Neanderthals are very closely related to our own modern human species, but they became extinct at an indeterminate point over 30,000 years ago. Controversial genetic studies suggest that over 1% of modern human genes come from human-Neanderthal crossbreeding. Understanding Neanderthal DNA can thus help scientists understand the development of humans and possibly even have implications for human medicine.
How do you feel about the idea that a tiny percentage of the very code that makes us human is derived from interbreeding with another subspecies?
[Image: Flickr user erix]