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Neandertal mitochondrial DNA deciphered

Results show modern humans, Neandertals diverged 660,000 years ago

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10:55am, August 7, 2008

Now there’s even more scientific proof that you are not a Neandertal, no matter what anyone says.

An international consortium of researchers reports in the Aug. 8 Cell that for the first time the complete sequence of mitochondrial DNA from a Neandertal has been deciphered. Comparison of the Neandertal sequence with mitochondrial sequences from modern humans confirms that the two groups belong to different branches of humankind’s family tree, diverging 660,000 years ago.

That date is not statistically different from previous estimates of the split between humans and Neandertals, says Erik Trinkaus, a paleoanthropologist at WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis. The sequence also doesn’t reveal what happened to drive Neandertals to extinction, but it does clear up some discrepancies in earlier studies.

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