National Geographic

An Up-to-Date Neanderthal Genome Fits Into the Web of Humanity

There’s more news on the ancient human DNA front: as I report in my new “Matter” column in the New York Times, scientists have now reconstructed the genome of a Neanderthal with exquisite accuracy. Their genome sequence is as good as what you’d get if you had your own genome sequenced with the finest equipment available today. And yet the DNA comes from a fossil that’s approximately 130,000 years old.

You can read more about this remarkable feat–and what it implies–in my column. But there’s something more that I didn’t have room to discuss that I found really intriguing. Here’s the tree of human evolution that scientists have generated from the Neanderthal genome in comparison with other human DNA:

Nature

Nature

 

Now zoom out to the tree of all living things*:

Brown, Nature Reviews Genetics http://www.nature.com/nrg/journal/v4/n2/abs/nrg1000.html

Brown, Nature Reviews Genetics http://www.nature.com/nrg/journal/v4/n2/abs/nrg1000.html

Evolution is a mixture of flow–the cascade of genes from parents to offspring, and the criss-cross movement between populations and species. It has made us who were are, over just the past 60,000 years and over the past four billion.

[Note: The image at the top of this post comes from the Neanderthal Museum in Germany. I have never been there, but I can only guess that it's fantastic.]

[*This tree is somewhat out of date. Eukaryotes now look to be just one branch of the Archaea, for example, rather than a third domain. But the criss-crossing remains.]

There are 15 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. David Bump
    December 19, 2013

    The individual was from a highly inbred group, yet comparisons show that Neanderthals and humans did at times cross paths and cross breed. Sounds like isolated populations of the same species (perhaps technically considered sub-species) in which small groups were highly nomadic or pioneering.

  2. Mike Lewinski
    December 20, 2013

    The resemblance in that photo to a certain news anchor is rather striking.

    Now that I think about it, I rather wish we’d have a Neanderthal news anchor. I might watch more network news.

  3. Rasmus Jakobsen
    December 20, 2013

    I think the paper states the bone was found in a layer that is about 50000 years old and not 130000

    [CZ: I asked Svante Paabo, the lead author of the study about the bone's age. The layer is dated as being older than 50000, but it's unclear how much older. They've used the molecular clock to estimate the age of the fossil from the mutations in the genome. Depending on the mutation rate, the age is older. Paabo said their current estimate is 130,000 years.]

  4. Hans-Georg Lundahl
    December 22, 2013

    In other words, dates are not made by Carbon dating.

    And of course not by historical record. It is a play between “dating of the rocks in which found” and “dating of mutations” … (a Young Earth Creationist taking note).

  5. John Joseph
    December 24, 2013

    It appears that asians and the people in pacific are more closely related to Denisovans than Neanderthals. Cool. Good article
    John

  6. John Joseph
    December 29, 2013

    Creationist know the truth deep down, but refuse to accept it for some weird reason
    John

  7. Hans-Georg Lundahl
    December 29, 2013

    Oh, we are the ones who refuse to accept what we know, are we …?

    There are two criteria by which I consider the Neanderthal as fully human: a) they have made children with people closer to us and which have come down to us, b) their language gene (FOXP2 unless I misremember the exact name) is exactly identical to the human version.

    There was an article on the second aspect hereof on CMI (Creation Ministries International).

    There is exactly no criterium by which they would have lived outside the Biblical Chronology, this contradicting it. If it had been C14, I would have answered that C14 level was still early on in buildup and gave very much lower inition values – not to be confused with the evolutionist theme of “we have checked about fluctuations” – and Carl Zimmer just confirmed that the bones were dated after the layer, meaning it is a question of all the guesswork of palaeocene, miocene, eocene etc. being different times rather than different biotopes at around the same time (basically Flood of Noah, though some perhaps later too).

  8. Hans-Georg Lundahl
    December 29, 2013

    correction: “this contradicting it” should have been “thus contradicting it”

  9. Michael Polia
    January 4, 2014

    Author Jonathan Brookes has recently published a novel in which the military attempts to clone Neanderthals to use as soldiers.

    The novel is a fast paced science fiction thriller that explores the possibility of resurrecting and weaponizing an extinct species (Neanderthals). The intriguing storyline shares some fascinating anthropological and biological insights while also contemplating moral questions raised by genetic engineering.

    Imagine a scenario in which some rogue, black-ops faction of the military attempts to clone Neanderthals in order to create a superior soldier. This rogue military group, working with a military contractor, inadvertently unleash a past that should have remained extinct. The novel explores the social and moral issues of such a project, as well as worst case scenarios of a covert military project gone awry.

    http://www.amazon.com/author/jonathanbrookes

  10. D. Cone
    January 6, 2014

    Huh? I come from “just one branch of the Archaea?” When was this decided?

    [CZ: Here's the most recent review of the growing evidence in favor of a two-domain tree.]

  11. Brad
    January 9, 2014

    I can understand the stance scientific “authorities” take by accepting evolution as fact. After all, no one wants to be ostracized from their community for being different.
    It’s kinda like scientist racism. Lol

  12. JIMJFOX
    January 25, 2014

    Radiocarbon dating (or simply carbon dating) is a radiometric dating technique that uses the decay of carbon-14 (14C) to estimate the age of organic materials, such as wood and leather, up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years Before Present.

    Not useful for c130,000 yBP.

    “accepting evolution as fact” Bull***t. 150+ years of EVIDENCE & not a single case to refute it.

  13. Teresa
    February 12, 2014

    There is a difference between facts and faith. Though I respect anyone’s belief and do not mean to diminish or demean that in any way, it is a false analogy to compare the two and define science according to religion ( as in Creationism). We are talking apples and oranges here. Science is based on verifiable facts and evidence & on peer-reviewed studies. It is a field of study. Religion is based on judgments based on values that no one can declare as factual because there is no evidence. Genesis is not a scientific analysis but a metaphorical explanation of how people turned from worshipping nature to worshipping God. Note: I am both deeply spiritual and love science.

  14. Jonathan Brookes
    February 14, 2014

    Would resurrected (cloned) Neanderthals posess an immortal soul?

  15. Joyce Fosnight
    February 24, 2014

    Robert Shapiro an evolutionist and Professor of Chemistry at NY University an expert on DNA research wrote the book Origins. Page 33 “In the origin-of -life field, a particular theory or point of view is frequently elevated to the status of a myth. It is then treated as a doctrine to be validated, and not to be challenged.

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