Malaysian Atheist

An avowed atheist living in Malaysia.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Scientists unveil Neanderthal DNA

Scientists in Germany have successfully extracted DNA of the Neanderthal man from a 38,000-year-old fossil found in Croatia. They expect to fully map the Neanderthal genome within the next two years.

This endeavour will help reveal many aspects of our own human genome as the Neanderthal DNA is at least 99.5% identical to that of homo sapiens (humans). Neanderthals are a separate species from humans, where we share a common ancestor about 500,000 years ago.

By comparison, chimpanzees, which are our closest living relative share 99.2% of our genes. By studying the remaining 0.8% sets of genes which are different, scientists will be able to identify specific genes that make us uniquely human.

Now, people who do not understand evolution, think that evolution says we, humans come from monkeys. That is inaccurate because evolution actually says that we and the great apes share a common ancestor. A long time ago, we had a common ancestor which split into two separate evolutionary paths. One path eventually led to the evolution of apes, while the other led to hominids like Neanderthals and humans. This split occurred about 5-7 million years ago.


One interesting thing is that humans and Neanderthals did coexist at one time. The Neanderthals had occupied Europe and West Asia. There is, however some debate about whether or not humans and Neanderthals had inter-bred. Subsequently, humans replaced all archaic hominids around the world and the Neanderthals went extinct.

But if you look around you today, you'll find that there still are Neanderthals roaming about, and sometimes banding together.



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