Recently scientists have discovered ancient DNAs of human ancestors from caves with no skeletal remains. This discovery can bring up great facts of human history.
Researchers from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany have therefore engaged themselves in order to find more about the DNAs.The sediment samples collected at seven archaeological sites, the researchers pulled out tiny DNA fragments, once belonged to a variety of mammals, including our extinct human relatives.
The DNA were retrieved from Neanderthals in cave sediments of four archaeological sites. Also they found DNAs of Denisovans in sediments from Russia. These new developments now enable researchers to uncover the genetic affiliations of the former inhabitants of many archaeological sites which do not yield human remains.
“We know that several components of sediments can bind DNA,” said Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute. “We, therefore, decided to investigate whether hominin DNA may survive in sediments at archaeological sites known to have been occupied by ancient hominins,” said Meyer.
Researchers collected sediment samples covering a time span from 14,000 to over 550,000 years ago. Using tiny amounts of material the researchers recovered and analysed fragments of mitochondrial DNA – genetic material from the mitochondria, the “energy factories” of the cell – and identified them as belonging to twelve different mammalian families that include extinct species such as the woolly mammoth, the woolly rhinoceros, the cave bear and the cave hyena.
The researchers then looked specifically for ancient hominin DNA in the samples. “From the preliminary results, we suspected that in most of our samples, DNA from other mammals was too abundant to detect small traces of human DNA,” said Viviane Slon, PhD student at the Max Planck Institute.
“We then switched strategies and started targeting specifically DNA fragments of human origin,” Slon said.
Eight out of nine sediment samples contained Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA from either on or multiple individuals. The remaining one contained Denisovan DNA.