Bear genome at Atapuerca paves way for earliest hominid sequencing at site

Team including Spanish researchers samples DNA of animals who lived about 400,000 years ago

A fossilized bear bone, from which the genetic material was extracted. / Javier Trueba (MADRID SCIENTIFIC FILMS)

An international team that includes Spanish researchers has sequenced the mitochondrial genome (special DNA passed on exclusively by mothers) of bears who lived about 400,000 years ago in Atapuerca, near Burgos in northern Spain. This brings scientists closer to sequencing the entire genome of pre-Neanderthal humans who lived at the same time, and who hold clues about the evolution of our species.

The small mtDNA fragments were found inside samples of bear bones that were mixed in with hominid fossils at Sima de los Huesos (Pit of the Bones) at the Atapuerca site, which contains the world's largest collection of human remains from the Middle Pleistocene. Until now, the oldest samples of DNA recovered in temperate areas - not frozen at high altitudes - were between 100,000 and 120,000 years old.

Paleontologist Nuria García works on a fossil at the Atapuerca site in Burgos. / javier trueba (madrid scientific films)

The breakthrough could have significant implications for human paleontology.

"Let us hope that the methodology that we are presenting here will help recover ancient DNA sequences from other organisms of the Middle Pleistocene. The fossils of Sima de los Huesos are the target of these efforts," write Jesse Dabney and his colleagues in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which this week publishes the entire mitochondrial genome of those early cave inhabitants.

"Yes, of course I am optimistic about the possibility of obtaining DNA from human fossils at the pit; if it is there in the bear bones, it can be there in the human bones, which are contemporary to the latter," says Juan Luis Arsuaga, co-director of the Atapuerca site and one of the authors of the new study.

Y ADEMÁS...

Para poder comentar debes estar registrado en Eskup y haber iniciado sesión

Darse de alta ¿Por qué darse de alta?

Otras noticias

LATIN AMERICA

Minors flee violence and exclusion in Honduras

Misinformation by traffickers has seen surge in young unaccompanied migrants

Fernández gets tough on “vulture fund” negotiations

Francisco Peregil Buenos Aires

President says Argentina will not default on its loans because it has already paid

Health corruption scandal smears Mujica’s party

Investigation of embezzlement scheme of hospital funds sullies Uruguay’s ruling party and its candidate Tabaré Vázquez

Mamá Rosa has dementia, says Prosecutor General

The 80-year-old founder of La Gran Familia no longer has the capacity to run the shelter

Lo más visto en...

» Top 50

Webs de PRISA

cerrar ventana