Human Evolution @ UCL


Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from Pleistocene sediments

28 April 2017

Although a rich record of Pleistocene human-associated archaeological assemblages exists, the scarcity of hominin fossils often impedes the understanding of which hominins occupied a site.

Homo neanderthalensis group Using targeted enrichment of mitochondrial DNA we show that cave sediments represent a rich source of ancient mammalian DNA that often includes traces of hominin DNA, even at sites and in layers where no hominin remains have been discovered. By automation-assisted screening of numerous sediment samples we detect Neandertal DNA in eight archaeological layers from four caves in Eurasia. In Denisova Cave we retrieved Denisovan DNA in a Middle Pleistocene layer near the bottom of the stratigraphy. Our work opens the possibility to detect the presence of hominin groups at sites and in areas where no skeletal remains are found.

Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from Pleistocene sediments

Viviane Slon, Charlotte Hopfe, Clemens L. Weiß, Fabrizio Mafessoni, Marco de la Rasilla, Carles Lalueza-Fox, Antonio Rosas, Marie Soressi, Monika V. Knul, Rebecca Miller, John R. Stewart, Anatoly P. Derevianko, Zenobia Jacobs, Bo Li, Richard G. Roberts, Michael V. Shunkov, Henry de Lumley, Christian Perrenoud, Ivan Gušić, Željko Kućan, Pavao Rudan, Ayinuer Aximu-Petri, Elena Essel, Sarah Nagel, Birgit Nickel, Anna Schmidt, Kay Prüfer, Janet Kelso, Hernán A. Burbano, Svante Pääbo, Matthias Meyer

DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9695