Modern humans may have overcome Neanderthals, but they have yet to figure them out. Now a multimillion-dollar project to decipher the genetic code of Neanderthals may help explain not only why humanity’s closest cousin became extinct but also which genetic features have made Homo sapiens so successful. The Neanderthal genome project was unveiled yesterday in a news conference held at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Institute scientists plan to complete the project in two years in collaboration with the American biotechnology company 454 Life Sciences, a subsidiary of the Branford, Conn.-based CuraGen Corp. 454 has developed a speedy new approach to studying DNA. Knowing more about Neanderthal’s genes should give scientists a new window into human evolution. ‘The Neanderthal will be like modern humans in most ways, but more like a chimpanzee in others,’ said Svante Pääbo, the Max Planck geneticist who will head the effort. The skull of a Neanderthal discovered in France. Most scientists believe modern humans and Neanderthals come from a common ancestor but diverged about 500,000 years ago. Neanderthal was a heavy-boned hominid who was adapted to cold, made use of stone tools, and thrived in […]

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