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Monday, October 23, 2017

Modern Europeans Have Twice as Much Neanderthal DNA as Previously Reported

This is the kind of story that you might usually expect on the cover of a supermarket tabloid, but apparently, there is some support for this updated disclosure. Some genealogists who have taken popular DNA tests have been getting results showing a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA for some time now. A search on results in over 1200 books and other publications on the subject of Neanderthal DNA. Checking on the website of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), there are two companies that represent providing Neanderthal DNA percentages: and the National Geographic, Genographic Project, Geno 2.0 Next Generation Test.

The headlines apparently come from findings at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany back in 2013 when the entire Neandertal (Neanderthal) genome was decoded. See "Entire Neandertal Genome Decoded." Although the news article does not give a citation to the source, the article that opened the issue to the discussion was published in the journal "Science" as "A high-coverage Neandertal genome from Vindija Cave in Croatia," by Dr. Kay Prüfer and others. Here is a copy of the abstract of the article:
To date the only Neandertal genome that has been sequenced to high quality is from an individual found in Southern Siberia. We sequenced the genome of a female Neandertal from ~50 thousand years ago from Vindija Cave, Croatia to ~30-fold genomic coverage. She carried 1.6 differences per ten thousand base pairs between the two copies of her genome, fewer than present-day humans, suggesting that Neandertal populations were of small size. Our analyses indicate that she was more closely related to the Neandertals that mixed with the ancestors of present-day humans living outside of sub-Saharan Africa than the previously sequenced Neandertal from Siberia, allowing 10-20% more Neandertal DNA to be identified in present-day humans, including variants involved in LDL cholesterol levels, schizophrenia and other diseases.
Perhaps this type of finding gives genealogists a little more accurate assessment of the value of the ethnicity estimates that are now popularly provided with genealogical DNA tests.

More about this later.

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