Gizmodo reported that an international research team has finished one of the most in-depth studies of a Neanderthal genome in history. They were led researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. The team's findings were published in the peer-reviewed academic journal “Science” under the title “A high-coverage of Neanderthal genome from Vindija Cave in Croatia.”

Fully detailing Neanderthal DNA

This groundbreaking study was able to be undertaken due to an amazingly well-preserved Neanderthal genome in a 52,000-year-old bone fragment discovered in Vindija Cave. It was only the fifth specimen of the species to have its genome sequenced and only the second of those to be fully sequenced in high fidelity.

The Neanderthal to have its DNA sequenced from the bone fragment was a female, who is being called Vindija 33.19.

Learning more about the Neanderthal

By studying the fully sequenced genome from Vindija 33.19, researchers had some notions that Neanderthals get stronger, while others were shattered. The lack of genetic diversity reinforces early findings that they lived in tiny and secluded populations.

The parents of Vindiha 33.19 are not closely related, which rules out extreme inbreeding being common among them. Scientists thought this might be the case due to the first fully sequenced genome they got from a Neanderthal.

It was also revealed that early modern humans and Neanderthals started mating with each other much earlier than previously thought. The new analysis predicts that the two mated 130,000 to 145,000 years ago as opposed to the earlier estimate of around 100,000 years ago.

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How much of their DNA do humans have?

The researcher team also did a comparative analysis of Vindija 33.19's to that of current modern day humans and found that we have retained more Neanderthal genes than previously thought. Based on this newest fully sequenced genome, it is estimated that modern-day human populations have between 1.8 and 2.6 percent Neanderthal DNA. Previous estimates put this number at between 1.5 to 2.1 percent.

There is more, however, as the researchers were also able to identify the functions of these Neanderthal gene variants that still exist inside humans today. These include genes associated with eating disorders, visceral fat accumulation, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia and more.