Berlin: German scientists have completed the first high-quality sequencing of a Neanderthal genome, and made it freely available online to the scientific community.
Scientists led by Dr Svante Paabo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany used a toe bone excavated in 2010 in Denisova Cave in southern Siberia to generate a high-quality genome from a single Neanderthal individual.
In 2010, Paabo and colleagues had presented the first draft version of the Neanderthal genome from data collected from three bones found in a cave in Croatia. In this draft version of the Neanderthal genome, each position was determined, on average, once.
In the now-completed version of the genome every position was determined on average 50 times over. This allows even the small differences between the copies of genes that this Neanderthal individual inherited from its mother and father to be distinguished.
"The genome is of very high quality. It matches the quality of the Denisovan genome, presented last year, and is as good as or even better than the multiple present-day human genomes available to date," study researcher Kay Prufer said in a statement.
The analysis of the genome along with other research shows that the Neanderthal individual is closely related to other Neanderthals in Europe and western Russia.
"We are in the process of comparing this Neanderthal genome to the Denisovan genome as well as to the draft genomes of other Neanderthals," Paabo said.
"We will gain insights into many aspects of the history of both Neanderthals and Denisovans and refine our knowledge about the genetic changes that occurred in the genomes of modern humans after they parted ways with the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans," he said.
The group will present a paper describing the genome later this year but the genome sequence is now available online for free to other scientists.