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Neandertal Gene Study - Early Split


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A new genetic study bolsters theories of an early human-Neandertal split and is helping scientists pinpoint what makes humans unique. Controversy has long swirled in the scientific community over how closely the hairy Eurasian hunters resembled modern humans, with some researchers even claiming Neandertals (often spelled Neanderthals) were actually members of our own species, Homo sapiens.


A new study by geneticist James Noonan at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, however, reveals that modern humans and Neandertals' most recent common ancestor probably perished about 400,000 years ago.


"Each part of the Neandertal genome is an archive of the similarity and distinction [between Neandertals and] all people living today," he said. "Comparison to a lineage in our own family tree helps us understand which elements of the genetic code make us human."

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