Oldest fragment of modern human genome found
WASHINGTON, USA| Scientists claim to have pulled out the oldest fragment of the modern human genome from the bones of two cavemen, of about 7,000 years old, which were unearthed in Spain.
The skeletons, speculated to be of two young adult males, were found by chance, in 2006, by explorers, in a cavern high in the Cantabrian mountain range. One of the researchers, Carles Lalueza-Fox, a paleogeneticist at the Spanish National Research Council, suggested, “These are the oldest partial genomes from modern human prehistory.” The team recovered as much as 1.34 per cent and 0.5 per cent of the human genome from the cavemen’s bones, who are thought to have been hunter-gatherers.
Notably cold temperatures of the winter in the region, facilitated in the natural preservation of the DNA in their bones. These date back to the Mesolithic period, before agriculture reached the Iberian Peninsula with Neolithic settlers from the Middle east, as per the researchers. Analyses exposed the fact that current populations of the Iberian Peninsula, which includes Spain, Portugal and Andorra, are not genetically linked with these ancient cavemen. Instead, they were genetically closer to the current populations of northern Europe. The scientists have also recovered the complete mitochondrial DNA of one of these cavemen, which indicate that Europeans during the Mesolithic were very uniform genetically.
“Despite their geographical distance, individuals from the regions corresponding to the current England, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Spain shared the same mitochondrial lineage,” Lalueza-Fox said. “These hunters-gatherers shared nomadic habits and had a common origin.” The team now targets to complete the genomes of both cavemen. Such data could help “explore genes that have been modified with the arrival of the Neolithic in the European populations,” Lalueza-Fox added.
These interesting findings have been published in the journal Current Biology.