The Science of Sustainability

How Neanderthal are You?

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These results from the "Interpretome" tool show that there is a bit of a Neanderthal in me.

Asking someone if they were a Neanderthal used to be an insult but is now kind of a valid question. If you have any Europeans, Asians or Native Americans in your family tree, odds are there is a bit of Neanderthal in there as well.

As one of the whitest people on the planet, I almost certainly have mostly European ancestors. And if I had any doubts, my 23andMe ancestry results confirm the obvious…I am European through and through.

This means there is almost certainly some Neanderthal DNA squirreled away in my genome. But how much? I decided to try to find out.

First I asked 23andMe. They quickly replied that they didn’t do that, sorry. So as often happens, I needed to take my genome on a jaunt through the internet to find a tool that could give me the answer I was looking for.

I first went to my favorite, SNPedia. No luck though. Just a piece about the Neanderthal red hair version of the MC1R gene that hasn’t yet been found in humans.

Then I remembered a discussion at Stanford about which professor was genetically the most Neanderthal. Obviously they must have a way of figuring this out.

So I contacted Dr. Mike Snyder and he led me to Konrad Karczewski, a graduate student at Stanford. And he directed me to a tool called the Interpretome that he and some other Stanford folks had developed for their personalized medicine class.

This tool has a lot of cool features (feel free to explore) but I headed straight for the Neanderthal section. I plugged in my 23andMe raw data and out popped my results. There are definitely some Neanderthals in my family tree!

The site looks at 42 different markers and since we have two copies of each, there are 84 possible Neanderthal hits. I scored a 7 out of 84.

Now, since I don’t know if that is a lot, I asked Konrad about the kinds of ranges he sees. He said the average European has a score of around 7-10 which puts me at the lower end of average. He also said that someone in an online forum had reported a 26 but the highest Konrad had ever seen with his own eyes was 20. And that the lowest he has seen for Europeans or Asians was around 3-5.

So there you have it. I am on the low end of Neanderthalness for someone of European descent using these 42 SNPs. And less Neanderthal than a number of Stanford professors!

How cool are genetics when it lets me figure out that I am definitely a bit Neanderthal but not as Neanderthal as certain unnamed Stanford professors?

More Information

Neanderthals and you.

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Category: Biology

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Dr. Barry Starr

About the Author ()

Dr. Barry Starr is a Geneticist-in-Residence at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA and runs their Stanford at The Tech program. The program is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Stanford Department of Genetics and The Tech Museum of Innovation. Together these two partners created the Genetics: Technology with a Twist exhibition. Read his previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.
  • http://www.snpedia.com cariaso

    you beat us by a few hours. We now have the
    http://www.snpedia.com/index.php/Neanderthal
    well covered, and it appears s a topic in Promethease reports.

  • http://www.thetech.org/genetics/index.php Barry

    Sorry I must've just missed it when I put the blog to bed last week. I am checking out the Promethease report right now and I'll let you know what I think. I do like the idea of the gauge on the interpretome site to help me quickly judge my Neanderthalness (although this one wasn't as useful as I had hoped!).

  • doodyhead

    There has been a far more costly (and i feel a bit less accurate) 'how neanderthal am i?" test readily available for many years, even predating the internet. Just get married and ask your wife. Perhaps coincidentally, following this process also enables you to accurately measure your tolerance for pain.

  • http://www.thetech.org/genetics/index.php Barry

    Just looked at my Promethease report on my Neanderthalness. I can't easily extract a number from the report as there is no summary (you are 7 out of 84). For now, anyway, it easier to quickly determine your Neanderthal level with the Interpretome.

  • Charles Marsteller

    Some humans lack empathy. This is, for example, common to Cluster B Personality Disorders (Antisocial Personality Disorders which run as high as 80% in some prison systems).

    There has been a debate over the term "personality disorders" and some clinicians argue "alternative forms of personality organization." Some refer to those lacking empathy, in particular, as having "sub-human behaviors" or of being "sub-human." We discussed this in grad school and 20 years ago, the question was posed: could this represent a non-human aspect to the human genome, ie. Neanderthal? It is likely we will know the answer to this and many other startling medical facts in this Century, ie.that 4% of the population is neither male nor female, that Chimerism may explain transgender expressions, and that cancer is but a symptom what truly causes aging, Mitochondrial Disease.

  • Barry

    23andMe now offers a "How Neanderthal are you" service. By their reckoning, 2.6% of my DNA comes from Neanderthals (a typically average amount for a person of Northern European descent). I always thought I was more Neanderthalish than average…

  • Bizboy1

    I scored 19/84 and I have aspergers