Researchers in Germany have completed the first draft of the Neanderthal genome, more than 3 billion genetic building blocks that will shed new light on the ancient hominid as well as the origins of its closest relation — modern humans.

The draft covers about 63 percent of the roughly 3.2 billion base pairs in the Neanderthal genome. The team led by geneticist Svante Paabo has actually isolated 3.7 billion base pairs, but that includes many duplications.

Paabo, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said the Neanderthal genome will be an important tool for researchers tracing hominid evolution, and for those probing the origins of the genetic traits that make humans so dominant.

The announcement was planned to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth.

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