In February of 2009, a team of German researchers from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig announced that the preliminary work of mapping the Neanderthal genome had been completed.
Approximately 800,000 years ago, Neanderthals and modern humans separated, and they became specifically genetically different about 300,000 years ago. The gene map has given scientists a deep look into the history and potential life cycle of this near-human primate. Using information about mitochondrial DNA mapped in 2008, the study required that 3.7 million distinct gene elements of DNA from the nucleus be mapped as well.
This information has shown that both humans and Neanderthals both share the gene for speech. It has also shown that interbreeding was possible, specifically linking European DNA to that of the extinct species. The gene map also shows that, like humans, Neanderthals stemmed from a very small population.
One of the major differences the genetic information has shown is that the gene that regulates brain size is missing in the Neanderthal.
Above right: Neanderthal drawing. (Supplied by Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9b/Neanderthaler_Fund.png)