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Biotech Science

Scientists Map Neanderthal Genome 229

Posted by timothy
from the first-draft-means-they-can-still-send-it-back dept.
goran72 writes "In a development which could reveal the links between modern humans and their prehistoric cousins, scientists said they have mapped a first draft of the Neanderthal genome. Researchers used DNA fragments extracted from three Croatian fossils to map out more than 60 percent of the entire Neanderthal genome by sequencing three billion bases of DNA."
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Scientists Map Neanderthal Genome

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  • 60 percent (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shrike82 (1471633) on Friday February 13, 2009 @05:39AM (#26840775)
    Doesn't the significance depend hugely on what genes were included in the 60% that have been mapped? We're supposed to share 50% of our DNA with fruit [thingsyoud...toknow.com], 60% with fruit flies and 98% with chimps, so this incomplete map might tell us absolutely nothing, except that Neanderthal man is closely related to bananas and chimps, and that they were actually overgrown fruit flies.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 13, 2009 @06:29AM (#26841031)

    It would be embarrassing to you if one day you woke up and realized what a jerk you were. But carry on trying to feel superior by making racist remarks suitable for 2nd grade. You probably carry a genetic marker for incurable idiocy. Please don't drool on the way out.

    Moron.

  • "Why they died out is a matter of furious debate, because they co-existed alongside modern man."

    Thing is.

    Hasn't the author noticed that "co-existing alongside modern man" is not good for one's health?

    Perhaps the sentence should have read:

    "Why they died out is a matter of furious debate, although the probable reason is that they co-existed alongside modern man, which is a species known to be (a) warlike, (b) greedy, (c) bloodthirsty, and (d) in general dangerous to the health of other species, most of which it has eliminated from the face of the earth.

  • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday February 13, 2009 @09:22AM (#26842079)
    The problem would be that, like monkeys, Neanderthals are primates and would probably be the focus of animal rights groups seeking ways to stall the progress of science. Should appearance endow rights? Just because they may look structurally similar to humans, they aren't human.

    This is why it probably won't be done. Cloning a Neanderthal opens up an enormous can of worms. We're able to declare that it's wrong to do certain things to humans, but fine to do the same to animals, because there's a substantial gap between H. Sapiens and the nearest relatives, the chimpanzees. Even so there is serious disquiet over treating the great apes in such a manner, and even experimentation on more distant relatives attracts protest, especially if the animals in question happen to be cute.

    That gap between us and the chimpanzee - and hence the rest of the animal kingdom - exists only because all the intermediates are dead and buried. We draw a line in a conveniently empty space. Now we propose to clone a Neanderthal, and ask on which side of the line he falls. If you say he is a man, then what if we now clone H. erectus? H. heidelbergensis? A. Afarensis? Suddenly we don't have a clear-cut boundary between human and nonhuman, but a continuum of clones. Where is the line drawn, and on what grounds? You might end up defining all the hominids as human, Homo, Pan, Gorilla and Pongo together, and rule out experimentation on them all. Then what of other human rights? Votes for Neanderthals - yes? Votes for Chimps - no? A sliding scale of rights based on intellectual capability? Who administers the test?

    Our whole society is built on the unspoken, unexamined assumption that we know what is human and what is not. Cloning our ancestors in this way undermines that. Which is why I doubt it will be done any time soon.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:42AM (#26843255) Homepage

    Just because they may look structurally similar to humans, they aren't human.

    I really, really hope this is a troll; the same has been said of Jews, Black people, Irish, Native Americans and many more.

    Yes, and the same has been said about chimpanzees and gorillas. In those cases the statement is correct. Comparing this to a comment about racism really isn't helpful. We don't really know how bright neanderthals were and we don't really know if they could reproduce with homo sapiens. If they were about as bright as us and are cross-fertile then you'd have a point. Certainly if we could not interbreed then it isn't at all unreasonable to label them a separate species.

  • Re:what if (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyYar (622222) on Friday February 13, 2009 @11:05AM (#26843671)

    Plus, "species" is sort of a fuzzy and debated term with lots of funny edge cases - much to the consternation of people who need to label everything :)

  • Re:what if (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday February 13, 2009 @01:59PM (#26846467) Journal

    However, here is something to ponder. Since we know evolution is an ongoing process, at some point in the future will humans diverge into two or more different branches? Will genetic drift/mutation/whatever, occur to such an extent that like the one episode of Enterprise where there were two groups of humanoids living on the same planet but one was suffering from a disease while the other wasn't, will there come a time when there will be two distinct groups of humans?

    This would require reproductive isolation, and no population of modern humans has been completely isolated for more than about 10,000 years (the big example are the Tasmanian Aborigines, who were cut off from Australia by the Bass Strait at the end of the last Ice Age). As long as there is some transfer of genes, various populations will remain interfertile. We will continue to evolve, but the genetic differences will never become so substantial as to create a reproductively isolated group of humans.

    This is precisely what has happened with C. lupus. Despite the careful breeding of several thousand years of domestic dogs, there has been enough interbreeding between wolves and other wild dogs and domestic dogs to assure that, for all the morphological changes, they remain the same species.

  • by t0rkm3 (666910) on Friday February 13, 2009 @02:25PM (#26846823)

    That's a pretty definitive statement for an academic supposition.

  • Ray, it's a surprise to see you commenting on a non-RIAA story (despite all evidence to the contrary, RIAA execs & lawyers are not Neandertals).

    :)

    Despite all evidence to the contrary, I did, and do, have a life outside of fighting with the RIAA subhumans. In fact, I was for the first half of my college career, an anthropology major, and prior to that attended the Bronx High School of Science. (One of my only nerd or geek credentials.)

    Based upon all I learned in anthropology, I concur that the RIAA lawyers are not Neanderthals. I believe that the RIAA lawyers are NOT descended from a common ancestor at all, but are an alien form of being which probably came from outer space. I am uncertain as to whether they can be characterized as a "life" form or not, since their blood is cold.

    At any rate, one thing I've read from a couple sources is that Neandertals likely had a much higher metabolic rate than modern humans, and thus were outcompeted for food. One figure I read (in Nat Geo, I think) was that Neandertals would have needed around 7k calories a day, while moder humans require around 2k calories. This, coupled with a less diverse food supply for Neandertals, meant that modern humans were much better at surviving and reproducing during times of scarcity, like the ice ages. Modern humans and Neadertals competed in the same niches, and if the Neandertals were better adapted to it, they would have wiped out H. Sapiens instead.

    Thing is, h. sapiens has a remarkable track record of wiping out other species, and even members of its own species. Sometimes inadvertently by just greedily and myopically destroying the environment around them. Sometimes intentionally as for example exterminating bison, or exterminating Jews or Armenians, or sometimes just other tribes.

    I think it's a mistake to place any scorn on individuals battling for survival, like humans were doing then. Once a culture has developed that has the excess resources to care for those less capable, then you might have a point...

    If your assumption is true, that they were merely better adapted, then of course I would not place "scorn" upon them. However, human history shows that as well adapted as we are, we nevertheless -- collectively -- have a tendency to (a) kill more than we need for food, (b) consume without regard to the future, and (c) engage in senseless violence all kinds of living things.

    I do have a certain scorn for selfishness, because human beings are capable of more, and it is perhaps their most distinguishing characteristic that they are; they have the ability to love their fellow man, people they don't even know; to love and to adhere to and preserve the values of people who died long ago; to love and to look out for unborn generations they've never met and never will meet.

    Human nature has good in it, and evil in it.

    In view of the scant relevant evidence we have, there is no reason in the world for us to eliminate, as one of the possible explanations for the extinction of the Neanderthal people.... us.

    If someone who was once here is missing, we are, I am afraid, the "usual suspect".

  • by Sesticulus (544932) on Friday February 13, 2009 @06:00PM (#26850015)

    A modern human needs 2k calories a day when they work a desk job. When I worked construction I was eating around 5k calories a day and weighed 140 lbs at 5'10". I suspect the life of a modern human in the time of the Neanderthal was probably more on the construction end of the calories required spectrum than the sits around with a laptop end I enjoy today. Still not the 7k you mention above, but not as much of a difference.

  • by ultranova (717540) on Friday February 13, 2009 @07:26PM (#26850961)

    The problem would be that, like monkeys, Neanderthals are primates and would probably be the focus of animal rights groups seeking ways to stall the progress of science. Should appearance endow rights? Just because they may look structurally similar to humans, they aren't human.

    Actually, yes they are/were. Neanderthals are a subspecies of humans, "Neanderthal Man" as opposed to "Wise Wise Man", that being us. That's the whole reason why any experimentation on them would be interesting, and also why it would be quite immoral.

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