Third Neanderthal Genome Sequenced
To date, only two Neanderthals have been sequenced to high-quality genomes: one originating from Vindjia Cave in Modern Croatia and one originating from Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia.
The genome from a third Neanderthal whose remains were found-106 kilometers from the latter site-in Chagyrskaya Cave has now been sequenced in a research team led by Svante Pääbo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
DNA was extracted from bone powder and sequenced to high quality by researchers. They estimate that the Neandertal woman lived about sixty to eight thousand years ago.
From the variation in the genome, they estimate that she and other Siberian Neandertals lived in small groups of less than 60 individuals.
The researchers also show that the Chagyrskaya Neandertal was more closely related to the Croatian than to the other Siberian Neandertal which lived some 40,000 years before the Chagyrskaya Neandertal.
This shows that Neandertal populations from the West at some point replaced other Neandertal populations in Siberia.
“We also found that genes expressed in the striatum of the brain during adolescence showed more changes that altered the resulting amino acid when compared to other areas of the brain”, says Fabrizio Mafessoni, lead author of the study.
The results suggest that the striatum – a part of the brain which coordinates various aspects of cognition, including planning, decision-making, motivation, and reward perception – may have played a unique role in Neandertals.