Neanderthals are an extinct member of the Homo genus, and are either generally classified as a subspecies of modern humans (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) or as a separate species (Homo neanderthalensis). Modern humans are scientifically classified as the species Homo sapiens.
The lead scientist of the Neanderthal Genome Project is Dr. Svante PÃ¤Ã¤bo. He worked with other researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, which is located in Leipzig, Germany. Dr. PÃ¤Ã¤bo works in the Department of Genetics at Max Planck.
So far the team has sequenced about 60% of the Neanderthal genome, which involves around three billion combinations of four primary molecules that identify Neanderthals as distinct from humans and other living creatures. The genome contains all the hereditary information of a species.
Dr. PÃ¤Ã¤bo states in the Christian Science Monitor article 'Cavemen among us: Some humans are 4 percent Neanderthal' that their research is ''¦ just the beginning of an exploration of human uniqueness that it now possible"
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And, 'They found that from 1 to 4 percent of the DNA in the genomes of people from Eurasia and the southwestern Pacific were inherited from Neanderthals. Neanderthal-derived genes failed to show up in the African genomes.'
However, the researchers admit that these initial findings are incomplete and much more work is still needed to be done to formulate a better picture of what happened in our human past.
The Christian Science Monitor article, mentioned earlier, provides a good explanation of the research provided by the PÃ¤Ã¤bo team.