A high-quality Neanderthal genome — a map of the extinct species' DNA — has been sequenced and published for the first time. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, achieved the feat thanks to the discovery of a Neanderthal toe bone in southern Siberia in 2010. Using just 0.038 grams of the bone, the team was able to sequence every position in the genome around 50 times over. "The genome of a Neanderthal is now there in a form as accurate as that of any person walking the streets today," lead researcher Svante Paabo told The Associated Press.
The scientists are currently comparing their newly-acquired data to other, incomplete, Neanderthal genomes (including one sequenced in 2010 by the same team), as well as the Denisovan genome that was published last year. "We will gain insights into many aspects of the history of both Neandertals 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 Neandertals and Denisovans," says Paabo. The team will present its findings later this year, but has already published the full genome for others to download and study. The one condition? That no one else publicly discusses their findings until the Max Planck team makes its presentation.