23andMe customers are now able to have their SNPs scanned for traces of their ancient relatives through the firm's Neanderthal Ancestry Estimator. While most people don't yet have their whole genomes sequenced, thousands have had their genes scanned by direct-to-consumer companies like the Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe. "In theory, these scans contain enough information to estimate an individual's Neanderthal heritage," Ewen Callaway says at Nature's News Blog. "One of the scientists involved in the Neanderthal genome project, Harvard Medical School's David Reich, told me in 2010 that it would be a challenge to use SNP data for this purpose," he adds. Callaway adds that while the 23andMe test does not identify which SNPs its customers acquired from their ancient ancestors, "identifying which genes and even traits humans acquired from Neanderthals is a hot area of research."
Some 23andMe customers have made their Neanderthal results public on Twitter, using the hashtag #Iamthe1to4percent, Callaway adds. Razib Khan, for example, says his scan revealed he is an estimated 2.4 percent Neanderthal. Rebecca Ling is "2.6 percent Neanderthal and proud."