There’s a little Neanderthal in us

interns Contributor
Font Size:

Neanderthals — extinct for 30,000 years — live on today in the DNA of many people because the Ice Age brutes probably mated with prehistoric humans, scientists said yesterday.

The discovery stems from researchers’ striking success in extracting and sequencing genetic material from a pill-size amount of crushed bones found in a cave in Croatia. Then a Harvard geneticist led efforts to compare the ancient DNA with present-day human genomes, revealing that people from outside Africa inherited a small portion of their genes from Neanderthal ancestors.

“They’ve taken an extinct group of people who don’t exist anymore, and they’ve discovered that extinct group of people is still in us,’’ said John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in the research. “It really has changed our view of humanity.’’

Not only did the team find strong support for the controversial mating theory, but the work also produced a catalog of genetic mutations that set humans apart, yielding potential clues about why we succeeded while Neanderthals died off.

Full story: There’s a little Neanderthal in us