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More Alike Than Not

At Nature, researcher Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London asks what makes a modern human. Compared to their ancestors, modern humans have evolved certain traits that are easy to distinguish, like the shape of their skulls or skeleton constructions. After that, it gets a little harder to tell the ancestors' traits from modern humans' traits, Stringer says.

Genomics researchers today share a similar dilemma, as some populations of modern humans seem to carry more "archaic genes" than other populations, Stringer says. "These genes might be expressed in the phenotype, and may require a rethink about how and when regional variation developed in H. sapiens. Those with alternative agendas may also try to use these new data to rank modern human populations in terms of supposedly different degrees of modernity." What's important isn't that some populations have more archaic DNA than others, he says, but that the majority of modern humans' genetic makeup and behavior derives from the same place. "What unites us should take precedence over that which distinguishes us from each other," he adds. However much ancient DNA different populations carry, they all are Homo sapiens, and are modern humans by definition. "We will have learnt nothing in the past 50 years if we let small segments of distinct DNA govern the way we regard regional variation today," Stringer says.

The Scan

Two J&J Doses

Johnson & Johnson says two doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine provides increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19, CNN reports.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Response in Kids

The Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in a lower-dose format appears to generate an immune response among children, according to the Washington Post.

Chicken Changes to Prevent Disease

The Guardian writes that researchers are looking at gene editing chickens to help prevent future pandemics.

PNAS Papers on Siberian Dog Ancestry, Insect Reproduction, Hippocampal Neurogenesis

In PNAS this week: ancestry and admixture among Siberian dogs, hormone role in fruit fly reproduction, and more.