Inconsistencies in Neanderthal Genomic DNA Sequences
Jeffrey D. Wall*, Sung K. Kim
1 Institute for Human Genetics, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America
Two recently published papers describe nuclear DNA sequences that were obtained from the same Neanderthal fossil. Our reanalyses of the data from these studies show that they are not consistent with each other and point to serious problems with the data quality in one of the studies, possibly due to modern human DNA contaminants and/or a high rate of sequencing errors.
One of the enduring questions in human evolution is the relationship of fossil groups, such as Neanderthals, with people alive today. Were Neanderthals direct ancestors of contemporary humans or an evolutionary side branch that eventually died out? Two recent papers describing the sequencing of Neanderthal nuclear DNA from fossil bone held promise for finally answering this question. However, the two studies came to very different conclusions regarding the ancestral role of Neanderthals. In this paper, we reanalyzed the data from the two original studies. We found that the two studies are inconsistent with each other, which implies that the data from at least one of the studies is probably incorrect. The likely culprit is contamination with modern human DNA, which we believe compromised the findings of one of the original Neanderthal DNA studies.
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