Feeds

World's OLDEST human DNA found in leg bone – but that's not the only boning going on...

400,000-yr-old ancestral fling throws evolution into doubt

Build a business case: developing custom apps

New tests on human bones that were hidden in a Spanish cave for 400,000 years have revealed the oldest human DNA ever sequenced - and thrown boffins’ picture of early evolution into question.

The Sima de los Huesos hominins lived approximately 400,000 years ago during the Middle Pleistocene

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig developed new ways to retrieve and sequence highly degraded ancient DNA, with which they were able to sequence the mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA from a hominin thigh bone. This sequence is a small part of the genome that is passed down along the maternal line.

The palaeontologists have discovered that the remains, known as Sima hominins for their discovery in a cave site in Spain called Sima de los Huesos or the “bone pit”, appear genetically closer to Denisovans than to Neanderthals, who were previously believed to have stayed separate in prehistoric Siberia and Europe respectively.

“The fact that the mtDNA of the Sima de los Huesos hominin shares a common ancestor with Denisovan rather than Neanderthal mtDNAs is unexpected since its skeletal remains carry Neanderthal-derived features,” said Matthias Meyer of the institute.

Neanderthals and Denisovans were both early humanoid species that were around hundreds of thousands of years before modern-looking people started spreading from Africa over 60,000 years ago. It’s already known that there was some interbreeding between the groups, but the new results beg the question of how an early Spanish human ended up with Siberian DNA.

One possible answer is that the Sima hominins, Neanderthals and Denisovans were all related to a population of humans that came before them, giving them all DNA that came from that group. Another possibility is that yet another group of humanoids that was around at the same time as Sima hominids brought genes from the Denisovans or their ancestors to the Spanish group.

However, all these possibilities can be explored now that this research has shown that really ancient DNA can be studied. The previous most ancient DNA was pulled from remains that were just 120,000 years old.

“Our results show that we can now study DNA from human ancestors that are hundreds of thousands of years old. This opens prospects to study the genes of the ancestors of Neandertals and Denisovans. It is tremendously exciting,” said Svante Pääbo, director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

The full study, “A mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos”, was published in Nature. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.