The complete genome of a Neanderthal dating to about 38,000 years ago has been sequenced by the team lead by Svante Paabo. The genome will be announced on Darwin’s Birthay, Feb 12.
“We are working like crazy at the moment,” says Pääbo, adding that his Max Planck colleague, computational biologist Richard Green, is coordinating the analysis of the genome’s 3 billion base pairs.
Comparisons with the human genome may uncover evidence of interbreeding between Neanderthals and humans, the genomes of which overlap by more than 99%. They certainly had enough time for fraternization — Homo sapiens emerged as a separate species by about 400,000 years ago, and Neanderthals became extinct just 30,000 years ago. Their last common ancestor lived about 660,000 years ago, give or take 140,000 years.
Despite the remarks made in the Nature coverage about interbreeding, Svante has indicated in previous discussions about this genome that there is nothing to indicate this in the present analysis.