Neanderthal Genome "First Draft" Unveiled

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"Although there are many genes involved in language," Pääbo said, "there's no reason to say that they couldn't articulate the way that we do."

In addition, the genome offers more proof that Neanderthals couldn't digest lactose as adults, a condition that today affects close to 50 million U.S. adults, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.

"We can see the Neanderthal was not able to drink milk, [after] they were weaned," Pääbo said.

Researchers plan to make more comparisons like this, for instance, by looking at genes involved in brain development.

"In humans, we have a lot of recent evolutionary changes," that could explain our species' differing intellects, said anthropologist John Hawks at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who was not involved in the project.

"I'll be looking at whether there are parallel changes in the ancient Neanderthal lineage."

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