Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Closely Are/Were "We" Related To Neanderthalers

I just hope it is a LITTLE bit, and the shock wave of all the exploding Jeebus/Fundie/Fucktards will cover the world in splattered Xian "grey-matter" such as it is...Via The New Scientist and my old Exchaton pal, Moonboo, who finds an alarming number of these very interesting pieces:
Do we have a little Neanderthal in us? That's not a reference to your behaviour at the end-of-year office party, but to the genes of our extinct cousins. With the imminent publication of the genome sequence of Homo neanderthalis, that question may finally be answered.

So far no one has uncovered evidence of any cross-species romps - at least none that left a trace in our DNA. The 3-billion-nucleotide Neanderthal genome is our best chance yet of finding out.

Whether they did or didn't will make the headlines next year, but the importance of the Neanderthal genome reaches much further. For a start, any sign of interbreeding will force us to rethink our place among our ancestors. The researchers working on the genome have already discovered some details of the hominin's nature: a few individuals were pale-skinned redheads; others couldn't taste bitter vegetables; they may have spoken a complex language. But a complete genome means our closest ancestors can be analysed in far more detail, even revealing such information as their population size.

As it stands, the animal closest to humans that we know most about genetically is the chimpanzee. We shared an ancestor with chimps about 6 million years ago - and a lot has happened since.

With the Neanderthal genome, geneticists will get a twig that split from the Homo sapiens branch only 500,000 or so years ago. That twig could reveal the changes that make humans human, potentially explaining why some of us go mad, others get fat and far too many contract malaria. For scientists, at least, that's far more interesting than a little hanky-panky in a prehistoric cave.
Please, little baby jeebus, let us have just a tiny bit of Neanderthaler DNA...PLEASE! And the thunder of the exploding heads will redound to thy eternal glory!

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