Decoding Our Neanderthal DNA

a caveman is decoding our Neanderthal DNA
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In the 1940s, a certain molecule was identified as the carrier of genetic information. Called “deoxyribonucleic acid” (DNA), it was predicted to open doors to many great things.

Quite recently, DNA has been studied to unlock the mysteries of the past and trace our genetic history. This has been an unprecedented breakthrough for the scientific community and all of mankind.

Now, by studying human DNA, geneticists can trace the roots of any individual human all the way back to a geographic origin.

At around 100,000~200,000 years ago, modern man was found to have originated in Africa. And between 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, some modern humans migrated out of Africa to explore the world.

Neanderthals were believed to have been totally different from modern man, but they were the only other human species that existed in the same timeline.

Research indicates that Neanderthals originated in Northern Europe. Because they never traveled as far as Africa, there was only a small probability of their meeting any Homo sapiens back in the day.

It was not until our ancestors came forth from Africa and passed through Northern Europe that the two species discovered one another, leading to a small percentage of Homo sapiens interbreeding with Neanderthals.

In the process, a small amount of the Neanderthal genome was transmitted to Homo sapiens, whereupon the new “Neanderthal hybrids” migrated all over the world.

As modern man evolved, so did different characteristics. For example, in colder climes, modern man evolved a lighter colored skin, able to absorb more sunlight and vitamin D, which was a survival capability during long winters.

By contrast, in more tropical places, humans evolved a darker skin to protect themselves from the sun.

What is remarkable, however, is that if you study genetic samples from any part of the world, you find in the DNA at least a 2.5% trace of Neanderthal genome.

The make-up of DNA allows us to trace back our ancestral roots and answer many questions, including those concerning migration patterns.

DNA analysis also helps us understand the relative isolation or interrelationships of various races and ethnic groups through the ages.

What becomes clear as we study the DNA evidence is how related we all are. It certainly appears that we are all Africans and part Neanderthal in some way.

So perhaps the next time someone calls you a Neanderthal, there’s no need to be offended. It’s part of your heritage, and that of the name-caller’s, too.

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Lex Cavemen

LEX is the scientist. He is obsessed with understanding why and how the world around him works the way it does.

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