DNA, RNA, Chromosomes, and Genes


What genome will help scientists understand modern humans?

In 2010, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology used a toe bone excavated in Denisova Cave in southern Siberia to generate a high-quality genome from one of the most elusive primates in evolution—a Neanderthal (also seen as Neandertal) individual. The subject of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) has been highly debated since the first fossil discovery in 1857 in Germany. They have long been regarded as an ancestor of modern humans—albeit bigger, with larger brains—that split from Homo sapiens sapiens, while others believe they were an evolutionary dead end. Other fossils have since been found—including those in Siberia and Croatia. In this modern study, the researchers used about 0.00134 ounces (0.038 grams) of the toe bone to sequence the Neanderthal genome, then compared it to other partial genome sequences from other Neanderthals. The entire sequence is now available for the scientific community to examine and interpret—with hopes that more will be known about the Neanderthals—and the genetic changes that occurred in the genomes of modern humans after they parted with the Neanderthals.


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