Are you yearning to connect with your Neanderthal roots? Now you can!
Genome analysts at 23andMe have devised a new way to reveal the secrets inside your DNA. Their latest test will reveal how many of your genes come from Neanderthals. And they warn that some people have a lot of Neanderthal in them!
Early Humans Had Sex With Neanderthals
It’s now confirmed that early humans and Neanderthals interbred, and this practice was widespread enough that all non-African people alive today carry some fraction of Neanderthal genes. With the help of Eric Durand, who worked on both the first draft of the Neanderthal genome and the genome for the newly discovered Denisovan people, 23andMe is now offering a test to determine just how your DNA stacks up with the Neanderthal genome.
On average, people have about 2.5% Neanderthal DNA, but there are some people who carry significantly more Neanderthal genes than that. And exactly what does that mean? Right now, we don’t know. Certainly, there’s no indication that a higher concentration of such genes gives people a Neanderthal look – if anything, the influx of Neanderthal genes probably gave early humans increased fitness and resistance to disease, which helped them spread across the planet. Of course, whether there are similar advantages to having lots of Neanderthal genes today remains unknown.
Who Were Neanderthals?
Neanderthals, like modern humans, belong to the group of primates that scientists classify as the genus Homo. They lived in Europe, the Middle East and parts of western Asia from about 500,000 years ago to as recently as 30,000 years ago. Anatomically, Neanderthals were shorter than modern humans, with thicker bones, more steeply-sloped foreheads and heavier brow ridges.
They had bigger brains and muscles, but for some reason Neanderthals died out about 30,000 years ago, while we modern humans survived. Exactly why we, Homo sapiens, flourished and our Homo neandertalensis cousins died out, is an evolutionary mystery that biologists are trying to unravel. What experts do know is that although Neanderthals disappeared long ago, their DNA lives on in all non-African people.
Not The Dimwitted Caveman Of Popular Culture
And that image from popular culture, of the Neanderthal as a primitive and dimwitted caveman, is probably inaccurate. Scientists believe they may actually have been the most advanced group of primates besides modern humans, and despite their stocky bodies and thick skulls, may have possessed intelligence almost on par with ours.
So don’t be afraid to take that test and find out how much of you is Neanderthal!
Photo Credit: MareCrisium
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