Unleashing a new kind of DNA analyzer on a 38,000-year-old fragment of fossilized Neanderthal bone, scientists have reconstructed a portion of that creature's genetic code -- a technological tour de force that has researchers convinced they will soon know the entire DNA sequence of the closest cousin humans ever had.
Most tantalizing, the newfound ability to reconstruct prehistoric DNA allows scientists to home in on the fraction of a percent of human DNA that will differ from that of Neanderthals, who went extinct 30,000 years ago.
Those differences, scientists said, will amount to biological snapshots of what makes humans human.
Cool. And in my scientific illiteracy, I wonder: Once they get the whole map, could they replicate the "fraction of a percent" of the Neanderthal genes and swap them in a fertilized human egg? What legal status would a Neanderthal have - is she a person, given that Neanderthal is part of the homo genus, or an animal?