Saturday, July 22, 2006

Scientists seek the secret of our success from Neanderthal DNA
Scientists are to decipher the genetic code of our closest relative, the barrel-chested, long-faced Neanderthal, in the hope that it will reveal how modern humans developed the formidable cognitive power to dominate the world.

With fragments of DNA from bones found in ancient caves, researchers will piece together the Neanderthal's genome, and compare it with those already sequenced for humans and chimpanzees.

Modern humans and Neanderthals split from a common ancestor nearly 500,000 years ago, as primitive humans first harnessed the power of fire. From a foothold north of the Mediterranean, Homo heidelbergensis steadily evolved into the Neanderthals, while in Africa, the same species embarked on a different evolutionary path, one that ultimately gave rise to Homo sapiens.

This has been all over the news, with some suggestions about reconstructing the genome and placing it in a human egg for eventual breeding. Hawks has more.