Prehistoric Family Split: DNA puts Neandertals on edge of human ancestry

10:06am, March 17, 2004

In the ongoing battle over their role in human evolution, Neandertals have taken another hit. An unprecedented amount of genetic material removed from Stone Age fossils indicates that the heavy-boned, beetle-browed Neandertals made, at most, a small genetic contribution to our prehistoric ancestors.

A team led by David Serre of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, compared mitochondrial DNA sequences extracted from fossils of four Neandertals unearthed in Belgium, Croatia, and France with those of five early modern humans found either in the Czech Republic or France. The specimens range in age from around 30,000 to 60,000 years old.

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