outubro 28, 2007

Ancient DNA Reveals Neandertals With Red Hair, Fair Complexions

Science 26 October 2007:Vol. 318. no. 5850, pp. 546 - 547DOI: 10.1126/science.318.5850.546

News of the Week

GENETICS:Ancient DNA Reveals Neandertals With Red Hair, Fair Complexions Elizabeth Culotta
"What would it have been like to meet a Neandertal? Researchers have hypothesized answers for decades, seeking to put flesh on ancient bones. But fossils are silent on many traits, from hair and skin color to speech and personality.
Personality will have to wait, but in a paper published online in Science this week (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1147417), an international team announces that it has extracted a pigmentation gene, mc1r, from the bones of two Neandertals. The researchers conclude that at least some Neandertals had pale skin and red hair, similar to some of the Homo sapiens who today inhabit their European homeland. The paper comes on the heels of one that used similar techniques to show that Neandertals shared the modern human form of the only gene so far known to influence human speech, FOXP2. Although researchers are working to sequence the entire Neandertal genome (Science, 17 November 2006, p. 1068), these are the first specific nuclear genes to be retrieved. "These are the two genes you'd most like to see from a Neandertal," explains Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who led the FOXP2 study.

Many of the Neandertals cavorting in museum dioramas around the world already have pale skin or red hair, because anthropologists have long predicted this coloration on the basis of evolutionary theory. The dark skin beneficial in Africa offers no advantage at high latitudes, and in cloudy Europe, pale skin facilitates vitamin D production, Jablonski says. But there was no proof of Neandertals' looks until a team led by Carles Lalueza-Fox of the University of Barcelona in Spain and Holger Rämpler of the University of Leipzig in Germany set out to retrieve the mc1r gene from a 43,000-year-old Neandertal from El Sidrón, Spain, and a 50,000-year-old specimen from Monti Lessini, Italy...read more

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