Sunday, November 19, 2006

Neanderthal genome FAQ

I've hesitated to comment about the sequencing of Neanderthal DNA 'cause I haven't read the papers. Fortunately John Hawks has made the effort and posted the Neandertal genome FAQ. It should answer all your questions, except why John Hawks calls them "Neandertal" when Science and Nature use "Neanderthal." Personally, I prefer the original "Neanderthal."

If you want more information, Nature has a special webpage devoted to Neanderthal DNA.


  1. "Tal" means valley in German. The original finds were in the Neander river valley in the 19th century. At the time, the German word for valley was spelled "Thal", but the German language underwent a spelling reform in 1904 and the 'h' was dropped. So then, does a foreign word imported into a language retain the original foreign spelling or the current foreign spelling? Millions of residents of Peking and Bombay are eager to find out.

  2. If Science and Nature are representative of the scientific community then the original foreign spelling seems to be preferred. This makes sense, since there's a huge literature on "Neanderthal" and it's a good idea to be consistent.

    I'm sure the citizens of Beijing and Mumbai would approve, as would the citizens of Ciudad de México, Moskva, Roma and Deutschland.

  3. Mustafa,

    the river is actually the Düssel (same as in Düsseldorf). I don't know why the valley is called Neander valley.


    It'll be weeks before I can read the articles and Hawks' faq doesn't answer all my questions. So if you decide to write about it anyway at least one person will be interested in reading it.