Genome analysts at 23andMe have devised a new way to reveal the secrets inside your DNA. Their latest test will reveal how many of your genes come from Neanderthals. Be warned: some people have a lot of Neanderthal in them.
It's now confirmed that early humans and Neanderthals interbred, and this practice was widespread enough that all non-African people alive today carry some fraction of Neanderthal genes. With the help of Eric Durand, who worked on both the first draft of the Neanderthal genome and the genome for the newly discovered Denisovan people, 23andMe is now offering a test to determine just how your DNA stacks up with the Neanderthal genome.
On average, people have about 2.5% Neanderthal DNA, but there are some people who carry significantly more Neanderthal genes than that. And exactly what does that mean? Right now, we don't know. Certainly, there's no indication that a higher concentration of such genes gives people a Neanderthal look - if anything, the influx of Neanderthal genes probably gave early humans increased fitness and resistance to disease, which helped them spread across the planet. Of course, whether there are similar advantages to having lots of Neanderthal genes today remains unknown.
With the Neanderthal genome 55% completed and increasing all the time, we may soon be able to determine the full impact of people's Neanderthal inheritance. And, thanks to this test, when you call someone a Neanderthal, you can now do it with full scientific verification.