Should We Clone Neanderthals?

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

From the recent March/April issue of Archaeology. Zach Zorich writes:

If Neanderthals ever walk the earth again, the primordial ooze from which they will rise is an emulsion of oil, water, and DNA capture beads engineered in the laboratory of 454 Life Sciences in Branford, Connecticut. Over the past 4 years those beads have been gathering tiny fragments of DNA from samples of dissolved organic materials, including pieces of Neanderthal bone. Genetic sequences have given paleoanthropologists a new line of evidence for testing ideas about the biology of our closest extinct relative.

The first studies of Neanderthal DNA focused on the genetic sequences of mitochondria, the microscopic organelles that convert food to energy within cells. In 2005, however, 454 began a collaborative project with the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, to sequence the full genetic code of a Neanderthal woman who died in Croatia’s Vindija cave 30,000 years ago. As the Neanderthal genome is painstakingly sequenced, the archaeologists and biologists who study it will be faced with an opportunity that seemed like science fiction just 10 years ago. They will be able to look at the genetic blueprint of humankind’s nearest relative and understand its biology as intimately as our own.

In addition to giving scientists the ability to answer questions about Neanderthals’ relationship to our own species — did we interbreed, are we separate species, who was smarter — the Neanderthal genome may be useful in researching medical treatments. Newly developed techniques could make cloning Neanderthal cells or body parts a reality within a few years. The ability to use the genes of extinct hominins is going to force the field of paleoanthropology into some unfamiliar ethical territory. There are still technical obstacles, but soon it could be possible to use that long-extinct genome to safely create a healthy, living Neanderthal clone. Should it be done?

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16 Responses to Should We Clone Neanderthals?

  1. VoxMagi September 30, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    I’m not sure all this effort is necessary…just keep letting the contents of trailer parks, WWF events, monster truck rallies and megachurches continue interbreeding amongst themselves and we’ll have our own inarticulate, grunting, homicidal nomads sooner than we want them.

  2. VoxMagi September 30, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    I’m not sure all this effort is necessary…just keep letting the contents of trailer parks, WWF events, monster truck rallies and megachurches continue interbreeding amongst themselves and we’ll have our own inarticulate, grunting, homicidal nomads sooner than we want them.

    • William Xavier McGarley September 30, 2010 at 11:50 am #

      Some people suspect that is the Mormon church’s shadow strategy underlying their “12-child per family” policy; essentially it’s a ‘breeding war’, and by God if they can’t win by maneuver, they’ll win by sheer numbers.

  3. VoxMagi September 30, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    Worked for Voltaire…good enough for me.

    Also…still notably better than “appeal to Thomas Sowell or Michael Crichton” for inadequate copypaster backup for the twentieth time.

  4. Vox Coolstorybro September 30, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    Cool story bro.

  5. gemmarama September 30, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    are you even capable of writing a comment that’s not book-ended with quotation marks?

  6. gemmarama September 30, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    i’ll take two, they’d be quite handy around the garden.

  7. gemmarama September 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    i’ll take two, they’d be quite handy around the garden.

  8. William Xavier McGarley September 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    Some people suspect that is the Mormon church’s shadow strategy underlying their “12-child per family” policy; essentially it’s a ‘breeding war’, and by God if they can’t win by maneuver, they’ll win by sheer numbers.

  9. Human September 30, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    Okay the Earth is ours now…you can come back…

  10. Human September 30, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    Okay the Earth is ours now…you can come back…

  11. brandon December 25, 2010 at 6:52 am #

    yes, it should be done. we spend so much time, money, resources, and thought on what neanderthals were like so why not just ‘have’ one?

  12. brandon December 25, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    yes, it should be done. we spend so much time, money, resources, and thought on what neanderthals were like so why not just ‘have’ one?

  13. VoxMagi September 30, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    Worked for Voltaire…good enough for me.

    Also…still notably better than “appeal to Thomas Sowell or Michael Crichton” for inadequate copypaster backup for the twentieth time.

  14. Vox Coolstorybro September 30, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Cool story bro.

  15. gemmarama September 30, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    are you even capable of writing a comment that’s not book-ended with quotation marks?

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