Convoluted human evolution (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Friday, April 18, 2014, 16:37 (2101 days ago) @ David Turell

Early research is using epigenetic markers to sort out DNA differences in Neanderthals and Denisovans and humans. Science is still not sure who the original ancestor was:

"Epigenomes of two archaic humans — a Neanderthal and a Denisovan, groups that lived in Europe and Asia until around 30,000 years ago — are revealed today in Science. The report follows on the publication in December of a similar map from another group analysing epigenetic modifications in a 4,000-year-old native of Greenland2.

"Epigenetic differences between humans and their ancient relatives may explain differences in physical traits, or phenotypes, such as the jutting brow ridge of Neanderthals. Yet various obstacles still hinder the study of ancient epigenomes, and some researchers are not yet sure if the approach will yield insights.

"The genomes of humans and Neanderthals differ little; the two groups have fewer than 100 proteins that differ in their amino acid sequence. DNA sequences alone give little indication of whether the gene was active or not. In contrast, epigenetic chemical signatures can sometimes differ between genes that are active and those that are not. Computational biologists Liran Carmel and stem cell biologist Eran Meshorer, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and their team hoped that if they could detect epigenetic differences between humans and their archaic Neanderthal and Denisovan cousins this might eventually help to tell when and where certain genes were active."

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