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

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
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.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?