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Thank your ancestors if you're an early riser, say scientists


If you're like your favorite MORNING EDITION host, which is, of course, Michel Martin, you might be an early riser.


Or A Martínez. And if you come by it naturally, scientists say it could have something to do with your prehistoric ancestors.

TONY CAPRA: The Neanderthal DNA consistently increased people's probability of waking up earlier in the morning.

MARTÍNEZ: Biology professor Tony Capra and his colleagues at the University of California in San Francisco are just out with the results of a study that compared DNA from modern humans and Neanderthals. Their objective was to see how genomes from prehistoric ancestors could explain modern-day behavior, like waking up early.

CAPRA: We found that lots of the genes that control how the clocks that our bodies use to keep track of whether it's daytime and nighttime and when to wake up - we found lots of differences in how those genes were turned on and off in the Neanderthals. And that analysis suggested that there were substantial differences in these circadian clocks.

MARTIN: But Capra says it's not all about the gene pool.

CAPRA: So whether or not you wake up early in the morning is a combination of all sorts of factors. Some of them are genetic. Some of them are environmental. Some of them are cultural.

MARTÍNEZ: But Neanderthal DNA could still give you an edge.

CAPRA: It's not so much that it's beneficial to wake up early in the morning. It's that it's beneficial to have a fast-running clock that can quickly adapt to changing light, dark throughout the year. And then a side effect of that just happens to be that those individuals wake up earlier in the morning.

MARTIN: OK. I'm just going to have to keep setting my alarm - just saying.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMDEN CLOWN'S "!SUNSHINE!") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.