Of course, we undoubtedly share the bulk of our DNA sequence with our long-lost cousins, the Neanderthals. But more interesting is the question of whether our direct ancestors actually ever got it on with the Neanderthals! Was there any nookie... er... horizontal transfer of genetic material between them? That could get really interesting, no? Well, it appears we're getting closer to finding out:
The entire genome of a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal has been sequenced by a team of scientists in Germany. The group is already extracting DNA from other ancient Neanderthal bones and hopes that the genomes will allow an unprecedented comparison between modern humans and their closest evolutionary relative.
The three-year project, which cost about €5 million (US$6.4 million), was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. Project leader Svante Pääbo will announce the results of the preliminary genomic analysis at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois, which starts on 12 February.