Study also confirms that Neanderthal populations were small and isolated
Researchers have analysed genetic sequences from Neanderthal remains found in Spain, Croatia and southern Siberia. The results indicated that the genetic diversity of Neanderthals is very low in comparison to that of modern humans, suggesting that they lived in small, scattered populations.
Genes associated with skeletal morphology were found to be more changed in the lineage leading to Neanderthals than they were in the lineage leading to modern humans, implying that Neanderthals underwent more skeletal changes than modern humans. Conversely, genes associated with pigmentation and behavioural characteristics were to be more changed in the modern lineage.
The team researchers also identified amino acid substitutions in Neanderthals and modern humans. These can change the structure and function of proteins, and may underlie phenotypic differences (differences in observable characteristics) between the two species.
Castellano, S., et al Patterns of coding variation in the complete exomes of three Neandertals, PNAS (2014); published ahead of print April 21, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1405138111