Monday, April 22, 2013

DNA Monday: 3.1% Neanderthal, What Does It Mean, Really?

Well poor ol' GEDmatch is out so there's no chance of playing around there. The main page now explains that the servers are out and a message that says this:
17 April 2013 - There have been recent unrelated malfunctions impacting the operation of 2 servers. One will likely result in the loss of recently uploaded genealogical (GEDCOM) and triangulation ('match' files) data. The other server is being repaired. No time estimate yet, but it will probably take at least a week to resume limited operation.
Below that is a plea for donations to purchase additional back-up equipment. Yikes! Are they underfunded? Hope not. Maybe some large deep-pocketed group could buy or invest in them. They seem to have a very workable business concept.

I could continue to refine my list of surnames and locations associated so that I have something at hand to give potential DNA matches, but frankly I don't feel like it right today. My sinuses are all clogged and I'm working in slow motion so working on a list that needs to be perfect doesn't appeal. Instead, let's have some fun with the Neanderthal results from my 23andMe test.

Must confess to liking the idea of being 3.1% Neanderthal and in the 99th percentile of those who tested with 23andMe! At least I'm naturally in the 99th percentile at something, if an extreme outlier with no practical application. Here's a screen shot of the Neanderthal results page.

I think I'm more European in appearance than Neanderthal, for which I'm thankful;)
I scroll on down the page to find a link to a white paper on the Neanderthal issue and testing. The first thing it mentions is whether humans and Neanderthals interbred. I've been on a DNA message board for a bit now and this Neanderthal/human interbreeding topic comes up often. Guess people are thinking about this a lot. Here's what the white paper says, by Eric Y. Durand:

As a member of the Neanderthal Genome Analysis Consortium, I participated in the analysis of the first draft of the Neanderthal genome that was published in 2010.
More specifically, I was involved in the analysis that led to the discovery that Neanderthals did indeed interbreed with modern humans. We found that 1-4% of the genomes of all modern humans outside of Africa is of Neanderthal ancestry.
OK, so yes, they had real physical contact. Big deal, now let's move on. What does having Neanderthal DNA mean? I have no answer here, sorry, and it seems by the scant information on their web site (nifty t-shirt aside) neither does 23andMe.
I Googled around and so can you. Here are some interesting, at least to me, locations on the web.
From the Smithsonian Institution: Ancient DNA and Neanderthals
From National Geographics: Neanderthals... They're Just Like Us
You can find a lot more on this fascinating topic by just searching on Neanderthal and DNA.
I confess to finding this particular topic interesting because in a way it does connect us to our deep roots and paths of human migration, with mental images of very deep ancestors trying to survive climate, food opportunities or lack thereof, pest and pestilence alike, and yes, maybe interbreeding. It does make me thing in terms of deep time and about the possibilities of survival in the long haul. It takes me out of the mundane (and my sinus headache) and puts me in a really big picture. I like that!

1 comment: