An international team of researchers from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany has discovered human DNA in sediments without the presence of skeletal remains likes bones or teeth’s.
Tracing out the ancient human DNA is possible with the help of new technology that relies on the mitochondrial DNA present in the sediments in the soil. This has paved the way for discovering the past history regarding DNA.
For the purpose of the study, researchers considered the genetic material that was present in the sediment samples gathered from seven archaeological sites. The scarcity of skeletal remains has urged the researchers to find out new ways to trace the ancient human DNA.
As we are familiar with the concept that DNA binds to the mineral components of bones, the Matthias Meyer, the team lead has considered whether the same concept can hold true for historical sediments that are rich in minerals. Meyer claims that humans contribute to a very small portion of fauna found in caves. For instance, is you discover 1000’s of bones in caves hardly one of them might me human tooth or human bone.
To overcome this hurdle, the researchers examined the cave sediments to check whether they possess any traces of early human DNA. During the study, they gathered 85 samples that were approximately 14,000 and 550,000 years old. These samples were gathered from seven places namely Belgium, France, Spain, Croatia, and Russia. The team studied the layers of sediments to determine whether they contain any genetic fingerprint and they were successful in extracting tiny DNA fragments that belonged to different mammals including our extinct human predecessors.
The DNA of extinct species like woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, cave bears, and cave hyenas along with the Neanderthal DNA and Denisovan DNA were discovered.
The researchers used the technique called sensitive screening to locate Neanderthal DNA in eight archaeological layers from four caves in Eurasia. Also, in Denisova cave, the Denisovan DNA present in the Middle Pleistocene layer was found. The findings of the study have been published in the journal Science on April 27.