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New mitochondrial DNA studies on Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal bone samples show no apparent genetic matches between the latter and modern humans. The results indicate that Neanderthals seem to have made little or no contribution to the genes of modern humans. This conclusion is at odds with a harmony-among-different-species statement made in a museum scene early in the current film X2: X-Men United, but squares with earlier scientific work. "This discontinuity is difficult to reconcile with the hypothesis that both Neanderthals and early anatomically modern humans contributed to the current European gene pool," said study leader Giorgio Bertorelle of the University of Ferrara in Italy.
His research compared samples of two Cro-Magnons from around 25,000 years ago found in Italy with four Neanderthals who lived from 29,000 to 42,000 years ago. Although no matches were found, the Cro-Magnon samples matched 14% of modern humans found in the Near and Middle East. The report lends further evidence to the theory that anatomically modern humans emerged from Africa some 150 000 years ago and eventually displaced earlier humans, such as Neanderthals, in Europe, but without mixing. Bertorelle's research is published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
An article published in the American Journal of Human Genetics proposes that the human species dwindled to as few as 2,000 individuals, or about the size of Acton, Maine, around 70,000 years ago and could have easily been wiped out by a single disease or environmental catastrophy.
Researchers from Stanford University and the Russian Academy of Sciences compared DNA markers from more than fifty regions around the world, and used computer models to arrive at this conclusion. This explains the relatively minor variations in human genes between individuals, as compared to other species such as chimpanzees.
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