Ancient Human DNA Extracted From Ice Age Caves Without Human Remains

1 May

Anthropology.net

Preparing a sediment sample for DNA extraction. Photo by Sylvio Tüpke and Max Planck / Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Preparing a sediment sample for DNA extraction. Photo by Sylvio Tüpke and Max Planck / Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Ancient DNA has come a long way, baby. We now don’t even need the bones any more to pick up traces of prehistoric beings. This highly sensitive technique for analyzing ancient DNA was announced last week in Science.  Studying 85 sediment samples from seven 14,000 to 550,000 year old caves in Europe and Russia, senior author Matthias Meyer and his team of researchers first isolated all DNA from the soil samples. Unsurprisingly, most belonged to bacteria. About 0.05 to 10% belonged to mammals.

The authors then created a targeted enrichment of mitochondrial DNA, a type of bait, to identify the exact DNA to particular species, such as hominins as well as a variety of animals such as the woolly mammoth and woolly rhinos, cave bears and cave hyenas. Neandertal DNA was found in eight…

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