Neanderthal Genome Will Be Released

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.

Nature

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.

Comments

  1. #1 James F
    February 4, 2009

    Sweet! I can’t wait to compare some of my favorite genes to their Neanderthal counterparts!

  2. #2 Robert Saunders
    February 4, 2009

    If this is the first neanderthal genome sequence, I can’t see how they would be able to identify interbreeding with sapiens.
    What’s the evidence they were separate species anyway – wouldn’t evidence of interbreeding (if such evidence could be obtained) show they were in fact the same species?

  3. #3 Lilian Nattel
    February 4, 2009

    So when human beings left Africa, there were Neanderthal folks already on other continents. I wonder if they learned anything by observing how those other people survived.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    February 4, 2009

    The evidence Svante uses is a much larger data set from several indivdiuals.

    Whether or not they were separate species is a different question from a) if they interbred back then and b) if any unique alleles from the N population persist today. And no, interbreeding need not indicate the same species (though they for all practical purposes were the same species, more or less).

  5. #5 CyberLizard
    February 4, 2009

    I dunno… I’ve seen recreations of those Neanderthal chicks. Modern Man must have been drinking if there was interbreeding going on. Then again, have you seen West Virginia?

    *ducks from the pieces of coal being chucked his direction from the West Virginians *

  6. #6 Robert Saunders
    February 4, 2009

    Greg – thanks for clarifying – of course it must be a composite of several individuals!

    Robert

  7. #7 Brian X
    February 5, 2009

    So, uh… (ahem) how hard would it be to resequence said genome, implant it into a Homo sapiens embryo, and raise it to adulthood?

    (Okay, pretty damn hard, but if the neandertal clone is sufficiently similar to H. sapiens, it should be possible to integrate said individual into human society…)

  8. #8 Azkyroth
    February 5, 2009

    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.

    Explain roughly 1/3 of my high school classmates, then.

  9. #9 Anne Gilbert
    February 5, 2009

    I don’t know whether or not there was interbreeding between Neandertals and “moderns”(though I think there probably was; remember that at the time they coexisted in Eurasia, both populations were decidedly small). But CyberLizard’s ccomments, as far as I’m concerned, reveal some very modern, and basically Western male, sensibilities. He should ask himself whether or not people back in “them days” really had the same ideas about what constituted good mates, as they do early in the 21st century, in the modern, Western world.
    Anne G