The oldest human fossils are millions of years old so the idea that Neanderthal fossils represent a recent stage of evolution from ape-like hominids to modern humans doesn't make sense. The sequencing of the Neanderthal genome is almost complete and not surprisingly it reveal that Neanderthals and modern humans are virutally identical. Here's the report:
After years of anticipation, the Neanderthal genome has been sequenced. It’s not quite complete, but there’s enough for scientists to start comparing it with our own.
According to these first comparisons, humans and Neanderthals are practically identical at the protein level. Whatever our differences, they’re not in the composition of our building blocks.
However, even if the Neanderthal genome won’t show scientists what makes humans so special, there’s a consolation prize for the rest of us. Most people can likely trace some of their DNA to Neanderthals.
“The Neanderthals are not totally extinct. In some of us they live on a little bit,” said Max Planck Institute evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääbo.
It took four years for Pääbo’s team to assemble a working sequence from DNA in the bones of three 38,000-year-old Neanderthal women, found in Croatia’s Vindija Cave. The sequence, published May 6 in Science, covers about 60 percent of the entire genome.
Read it all here.