Neandertal, modern human DNA deviates even more

Compared with the backbone of Neandertals, the human spine, shown from the back (left) and side (right) may have a bit more curve in it because of differences in specific genes between the species, a new study shows.

Pearson Scott Foresman/Wikimedia Commons

An analysis of genetic material from Neandertal remains from Spain, Croatia and Siberia suggests that the populations of this extinct hominid species were small and isolated compared with those of modern humans. Neandertals also experienced more changes to their skeletons but fewer changes in behavior and skin pigmentation than modern humans, researchers report April 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team also identified six Neandertal genes related to the curve of the spine that have variants not found in modern humans or Denisovans. The gene variants might help explain why Neandertals didn’t have as much of a curve in their lower spine as other hominids.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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