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Ancient DNA moves Neandertals eastward

11:34am, October 9, 2007

Neandertals, ancient humanlike denizens of Europe and the Middle East with controversial evolutionary links to Homo sapiens, inhabited areas at least 2,000 kilometers further east than researchers have commonly assumed, according to a new DNA analysis of previously recovered fossils.

Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues extracted sequences of mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited solely from the mother, from fossils found in Uzbekistan and in southern Siberia.

The Uzbekistan find consists of an 8-to-10-year-old child's partial skeleton. These remains, from about 70,000 years ago, are often classified as those of a Neandertal, although some researchers regard the fossil as that of a modern human. The Siberian discoveries include teeth and limb bones from three individuals that lived more than 30,000 years ago. Their evolutionary identity remains unclear.

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