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Neanderthals are our closest evolutionary relatives

Cavemen are not as extinct as we all thought: 4% of our DNA is an exact match to Neanderthals.

A study that took place in Germany over several years has shown that Neanderthals are our closest evolutionary relatives and not chimps as previously thought. This discovery came whilst attempting to map the complete caveman genetic code. The team of 56 researchers from the Max Planck school ground fossils before comparing the scientific make-up to that of the chimpanzee.

Previous academic research has rejected the idea that our ancestors and cavemen ever crossed paths but this new evidence shows they were obviously a lot closer than imagined. Neanderthals were thought to have left Africa for Europe nearly 400,000 years ago but some stayed behind and that’s when the romance between the two species began. How much interbreeding occurred is not known as it would only have taken 20 Neanderthals to breed with ‘modern humans’ for us to see the effects.

This new information discovered by the Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology has also been able to show the differences between Homosapiens and Neanderthals. Genes responsible for causing illnesses such as Down syndrome, Autism and Schizophrenia are amongst the genes which vary.

Research leader, Dr Svante Paabo, said: ‘If we want to define genetically what makes all human beings that live today unique we can now do so’.

60% of Caveman DNA has now been mapped and has brought landmark discoveries at every stage of the project but none more revolutionary than this. The study which has had its results published in the latest issue of Science has been praised by members of the science profession. Professor Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London regards the findings to be a ‘phenomenal achievement’.

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