First complete Neanderthal genome sequenced
- Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2008.10267 aug 08First complete Neanderthal genome sequencedFull nuclear sequence, offering clues about our relatives' demise, expected within months.James MorganThe first complete genome of a Neanderthal — specifically, the mitochondrial DNA found in a 38,000-year-old bone — has been sequenced.The highly accurate sequence contains clues that our relatives lived in small, isolated populations, and probably did not interbreed with their human neighbours. “This is the first ‘finished’ genome sequence of an extinct human relative,” says the study’s lead scientist, Ed Green, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.Could genetics tell us why the Neanderthals died out?Analysis of the DNA, taken from a bone fragment from the Vindija Cave in Croatia, puts the date of our last common ancestor at around 660,000 years ago, give or take 140,000 years. This is broadly in line with other estimates based on archaeology.The research, published in Cell1, is a taster for the unveiling later this year of the complete Neanderthal nuclear genome sequence — which many hope will reveal the key genetic changes that propelled the evolution of human behaviour.for the rest of the article see Nature or 1. Green, R. E. et al. Cell 134, 416–426 (2008).