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.
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?