By recovering and sequencing intact DNA from an especially ancient Neandertal specimen, researchers have found evidence suggesting that the genetic diversity among Neandertals was higher than previously thought. The findings also suggest that genetic diversity may have been higher in earlier Neandertal periods relative to later periods that approached the arrival of humans in Europe. Changes in genetic diversity over time are thought to reflect population events, such as low-population bottlenecks caused by disease or environmental change, as well as the influence of random genetic change. The findings are reported in the June 6th issue of Current Biology by a group of researchers including Ludovic Orlando and led by Catherine Hänni of Ecole Normale Supérieur in Lyon, France.
The Neandertal sequence from Scladina confirms that Neandertals and modern humans were only distant relatives – Neandertal sequences are all closer to each other than to any known human sequence. But the study also reveals that the genetic diversity of Neandertals has been underestimated. Indeed, the mtDNA from the Scladina sample is more divergent relative to modern humans than is mtDNA from recent Neandertals, suggesting that Neandertals were a more genetically diverse group than previously thought.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Neanderthal update 100,000 year-old DNA sequence allows new look at Neandertal's genetic diversity