Neandertal: The Answer Is Epigenetics Not Evolution | The Institute for Creation Research

Neandertal: The Answer Is Epigenetics Not Evolution

Recent genome reports show that the Neandertals are essentially fully human, causing scientists to reclassify them as "archaic humans."1,2 But what about the apparent subtle differences in anatomy that first caused scientists to claim that Neandertals were a completely different species? It turns out that the answer can be found in epigenetics, according to newly published research.3

Epigenetics, in the more modern sense, refers to the heritable chemical changes performed by cellular machines to DNA that alter gene function without actually changing the DNA nucleotide code. In the field of genomics, it is more accurately referred to as chromatin modification. Chromatin is the stuff chromosomes are made of which consists of the DNA molecule packaged around proteins called histones. Both the DNA and the histone proteins can be chemically modified to control how genes function and are regulated along the chromosome.

Specifically, the DNA molecule is modified by adding methyl groups to the cytosine nucleotides called DNA methylation. In general, the more methylated the DNA is at the start of a gene region, the less active the gene is. The patterns of DNA methylation across the genome are collectively called the methylome and can be compared between similar genomes and correlated with specific types of gene activity.

In a recent report in the journal Science, researchers studied the methylomes of two different Neandertals using a new indirect method of analysis for archaic DNA.3 They corroborated their DNA methylation profiles with modern humans and reported that "over 99% of both archaic genomes show no significant methylation differences compared to the present-day human." Another verification of their technique is that they also analyzed the patterns of Neandertal methylation compared to modern humans in housekeeping genes—those that are required for the maintenance of basic cellular function. The methylation patterns were the same compared to modern humans, indicating that the study's methodology was fairly accurate.

The most interesting aspect of the study came when the researchers reported that "in each archaic human we found ~1,100 differentially methylated regions." While some of these areas may have just been related to population variability, significant methylation differences between Neandertals and modern humans were found in areas of the genome associated with the control and regulation of hox gene clusters. Hox genes are known to be associated with bone and skeletal development. Thus, the authors of the report believed that the regulatory changes in these regions driven by epigenetics was at the root of the various anatomical differences we see between modern humans and Neandertals, even though the DNA sequences are essentially the same.

Epigenetic profiles in the genome are affected by diet, life-style, and environmental factors. Creationist climate scientists believe that the earth's environment and human living conditions were much different directly after the flood—about four thousand years ago—than they are today. We also know that the Neandertal remains being found are not in flood sediments, but buried in caves so we can surmise that they were likely living during the first few generations of post-flood humans. Thus, this new epigenetic evidence fits well with biblical based predictions about science: Neandertals were clearly not an evolving pre-human species, but were in fact fully human with trait variability being determined by epigenetic factors.

References

  1. Tomkins, J. 2014. Ancient Human DNA: Neandertals and Denisovans. Acts & Facts. 43 (3): 9. 
  2. Tomkins, J.P. DNA Proof That Neandertals Are Just Humans. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org February 21, 2014, accessed April 20, 2014. 
  3. Gokhman, D., et al. 2014. Reconstructing the DNA Methylation Maps of the Neandertal and the Denisovan. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1250368.

*Dr. Tomkins is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in genetics from Clemson University.

Article posted on May 2, 2014.

The Latest
NEWS
Florida Fossil Shows Porcupines Have Always Been Porcupines
The porcupine is an animal (rodent) that one does not soon forget. It is armed with formidable quills that deter even the hungriest predators. What...

NEWS
Webb Telescope Discovers Another Record-Breaking Galaxy
Astronomers using the James Webb Space Telescope have recently confirmed that two galaxies are extremely distant, with one becoming the new record holder...

CREATION PODCAST
The Power of Film & Video: Reaching All Ages with Truth | The...
Is there a place for the use of film and video within Christianity? If so, how can we leverage this powerful tool to reach viewers of all ages...

NEWS
Scaly Skin on a Feathered Dinosaur?
Fossil experts from University College Cork in Ireland took stunning images of Psittacosaurus skin. The dinosaurs’ belly shows patches of skin...

NEWS
T. rex Not as Smart as Thought
Have movies and most conventional paleontologists got it all wrong? T. rex and other theropod dinosaurs (the meat-eaters) are often portrayed as intelligent...

NEWS
June 2024 ICR Wallpaper
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8 NKJV) ICR June...

NEWS
A “Just-so” Story About Ancient Genes
An evolutionary website recently published “a groundbreaking study” that supposedly identifies a basic, uncomplicated, “simple”...

CREATION PODCAST
Dinosaurs with Bird Brains??? | The Creation Podcast: Episode...
Evolutionists claim that birds are descended from dinosaurs. A feature that is often cited as linking these two types of creatures is the brain....

CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
From Ruins to Revelation: Truths Revealed Through Biblical Archaeology...
The Bible is full of people and places that are seemingly lost to time, but through the field of archaeology, new finds are shedding light on the incredible...

NEWS
Bergmann’s Rule Falsely Refuted
A recent study of dinosaur sizes claims to break Bergmann’s rule.1 Bergmann’s rule was named after biologist Carl Bergmann, who...