In a potentially exciting development, researchers have announced the completion of a rough draft of the Neandertal genome in a talk at the AAAS, and in a press conference, and the latest issue of Science has a number of news articles on the subject. And that is a reason for having some reservations. There is no paper yet, and science by press release raises my hackles, and has done so ever since the cold fusion debacle. Not that I think this is a hoax or error by any means, but it’s not a good way to present a scientific observation.
Also, the work has some major limitations right now. They’ve got about 60% of the genome so far, and it’s all entirely from one specimen. From the age of these bones, degradation is inevitable, so there are almost certainly corrupted sequences in there — more coverage would give me much more confidence.
With those caveats, though, there are some tantalizing hints, and the subject is so exciting that it’s understandable why there’d be rush to announce. So far, they’ve identified approximately 1000-2000 amino acid differences in the coding part of the genome (human-chimp differences are about 50,000 amino acids), but there’s no report of any detectable regulatory differences.
I’m withholding judgement until I see a real paper; for now, you have to settle for a podcast with a science journalist, which just isn’t meaty enough yet.