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Nuclear DNA from sediments helps unlock ancient human history

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in extracting and analyzing Neandertal chromosomal DNA preserved in cave sediments

Until now, researchers required bones or teeth to access the full suite of genetic information from Neandertals, including the chromosomal DNA stored in the cell nucleus, but such fossil remains are rare. In this new study, Benjamin Vernot and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology retrieved Neandertal nuclear DNA from cave deposits in northern Spain and southern Siberia, yielding new clues to the population history of Neandertals. At the Spanish site, only one Neandertal fossil had been recovered in excavations, but Neandertal DNA was found throughout the cave deposits, revealing the replacement of one population by another around 100 thousand years ago. With the advent of nuclear DNA analyses of sediments, similar studies at other sites can provide new insights into the deep human past that do not rely on the discovery of bones and teeth.

© Javier Trueba - Madrid Scientific Films