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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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  • FOXP2 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Friday February 13, 2009 @05:37AM (#26840765)
    The interesting thing is that Neanderthals has the same version of FOXP2 [iht.com] as modern humans. This makes it more likely that they had proper speech rather than just "grunting" sounds.
  • Ethics and cloning (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2009 @05:38AM (#26840771)

    This would be a perfect test for cloning, as it would be incredibly interesting to clone these creatures and study them. We could discover their intelligence, learning capability, physical appearance, and other things that can only be guessed at through the fossil record. In the name of science, it behooves us to do such cloning (along with cloning of wooly mammoths and dingos).

    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.

  • Re:what if (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mrxak (727974) on Friday February 13, 2009 @06:55AM (#26841159)
    Anyone who's seen a neanderthal skull knows that something different was going on there. Humans just don't look like that. The bone structures are all quite different. Now, obviously it's going to be close, closer than us and the chimpanzees, but there will be some differences there. If there weren't, it wouldn't disprove evolution, it would disprove genetics.
  • I kinda doubt it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Friday February 13, 2009 @06:55AM (#26841163) Journal

    I kinda doubt it. Neanderthals went extinct so long ago, that I doubt that any stories or myths from that age would have survived as long.

    We're talking long before humanity invented writing, so the only way it could have survived is if the shaman of a tribe taught his apprentice about it, and so on. For some tens of thousands of years straight. I'd think that's rather unlikely. They had more pressing concerns in the here and now than "those guys our ancestors lived in the same cave with."

    Basically, how many folk stories do we have about woolly mammoths? Why would Neanderthals be remembered more?

  • Serious question? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2009 @06:56AM (#26841165)

    The serious answer is that they believe that the bone fragments are either human in origin or mocked up from bones of existing apes.

    There is no Neanderthal species for ID proponents. The answer is either they are human or they never really existed and the evolutionists are involved in a vast conspiracy to validate their own beliefs by creating these "pre-human" humanoids.

  • Re:what if (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrxak (727974) on Friday February 13, 2009 @06:59AM (#26841179)
    That said, assuming you don't bite somebody or have some kind of crazy infectious disease, you'd probably be better off not being classified as human. Sure, you could be considered property like a slave, but you wouldn't have to pay taxes or be responsible for a whole variety of crimes. Heck, PETA would probably make sure you had more rights than humans.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday February 13, 2009 @07:53AM (#26841447)

    another bit of trivia: they actually had a higher average brain size than Homo Sapiens. And in a smaller body, too. So if we go by the popular brain-mass/body-mass metric, they should actually be a little smarter on the average.

    Tell the court, Bright Eyes, what is the second article of faith?

  • Re:I kinda doubt it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Friday February 13, 2009 @09:41AM (#26842329)
    In Australia, the aborigines still have myths about creatures which actually lived there...40,000 years ago. Yes, myths can live on that long.
  • Re:I kinda doubt it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrsquid0 (1335303) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:07AM (#26842681) Homepage

    Myths can live a long time. We have stories in our culture whose origins date back five thousand years, and perhaps more. It is possible that the European stories of trolls and ogres came from the days when humans and Neanderthals both use to live in Europe. We will never know if this is the case, but the possibility can not be completely ruled out.

  • Re:what if (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raffaello (230287) on Friday February 13, 2009 @10:45AM (#26843309)

    Actually during the time neanderthals lived alongside the real human ancestors, they were the smarter species of the two

    Not so. During the time when both Modern Humans and Neanderthals coexisted, Modern Humans, by and large, showed evidence of the more sophisticated material culture (tools, art,etc.). Maybe you're thinking of the fact that, on average, Neanderthals had larger brains? Larger brain size does not = more intelligent. It's quite likely that Neanderthals had larger brains for the same reason that they had short, thick limbs: an evolved adaptation to the extreme cold of glacial eurasia. Neanderthal body proportions were most likely an example of Allen's Rule [wikipedia.org].

  • Re:what if (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday February 13, 2009 @02:39PM (#26846991) Journal

    I would imagine, all in all, that human and Neandertal brains were the same density. Let's remember, here, that the arrival of modern-looking humans (that is, humans that are morphologically the same as us) predates by tens of thousands of years the arrival of humans that behaved in a modern fashion. Prior to that, modern-looking humans didn't behave all that differently from their forebearers; the toolkits remained static for thousands of years, little evidence of symbolic thinking; behaviors key to how we classify modern humans. In fact, we didn't really behave all that differently from Neandertals, despite being morphologically distinct.

    Somewhere around 50,000 to 60,000 years ago there was some sort of neurological watershed moment where we suddenly modern-behaving humans; the rise of art, of symbolism, of ritual, rapid cultural advancement, technological breakthroughs at ever-increasing speeds. With prior hominids, tool kits could stay static for hundreds of thousands of years, but the rise of modern humans, we see the rise of agriculture within about 40,000 years of the rise of the first fully modern (physiologically and behaviorally) humans.

    As is often pointed out, the issue isn't necessarily brain size, but rather the wiring. The difference between pre-modern and modern humans, even where, morphologically, there's little different, is probably some very subtle neurological changes. Sadly, those are the kinds of changes that don't get fossilized, and there may not be an obvious genetic component, perhaps a slight mutation in some regulatory function, we just don't know. That may be the one value of mapping the genomes of extinct hominids where we can.

  • Re:what if (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ultranova (717540) on Friday February 13, 2009 @07:11PM (#26850813)

    During the time when both Modern Humans and Neanderthals coexisted, Modern Humans, by and large, showed evidence of the more sophisticated material culture (tools, art,etc.). Maybe you're thinking of the fact that, on average, Neanderthals had larger brains? Larger brain size does not = more intelligent.

    You have more sophisticated material culture than any generation before you. Does this mean that you are smarter than all of your ancestors? Of course not. It simply means that you've inherited the intellectual output of who knows how many human generations. So, for all we know, the average Neanderthal could be smarter than the average modern-day human, just less likely to copy ideas from around it.

    In any case, we seem to be unable to measure the intelligence of currently living humans in any but the most arbitrary way, or even come up with a workable definition for what intelligence actually is, so I kinda doubt we can say anything about that of humanlike beings long dead.

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