July 21, 2006 Science Magazine
RANDOM SAMPLES
IT'S NEANDERTAL TIME

One hundred fifty years ago this summer, workers mining limestone in a cave in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf, Germany, found 16 unusual bones. First thought to be the remains of a diseased victim, scientists later determined that they had belonged to a separate species of early human, which they named Neandertals.
   This week, as part of anniversary celebrations, Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, announced he is teaming up with genome sequencing company 454 Life Sciences Corp. in Branford, Connecticut, to try to sequence the entire genome of a 45,000-year-old male Neandertal whose bones were found in a cave near Zagreb, Croatia.


Figure 1
CREDIT: NEANDERTHAL MUSEUM/M. PIETREK

Figure 2
CREDIT: NEANDERTHAL MUSEUM

Although such old samples contain DNA that is heavily degraded, improved technologies have made it possible to sequence and piece together tiny fragments of DNA. Edward Rubin of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California is working on a parallel project, using different sequencing technology.
   Other anniversary commemorations include a new exhibit at the Neandertal Museum in Mettman, Germany, where visitors can see an artist's 3D conceptualization of the original find (above)--and see what they themselves might have looked like as a Neandertal (right).


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