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Neandertals, gut microbes and mail-order ancestry tests

Geneticists weigh in during the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics

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1:26pm, November 14, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — Scientists fluent in the language of DNA — be it from intestinal bacteria, Neandertals or the consumer kits that promise to tell people about their ancestry — gathered in November in Philadelphia for the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics. Following are highlights from talks given November 13:

Talk like a Neandertal
Neandertals may have had the genetic gift for gab, new research shows.

Analyses of the Neandertal genome reveals that the extinct human relatives had the same version of a gene linked to speech as humans do, says Svante PaÌaÌbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Mutations that reduce activity of the gene, called FOXP2, also disable speech in humans.

Humans have a version of FOXP2 that differs by two amino acids from the chimpanzee version of the gene. Neandertals share the version of the gene

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