IBE (CSIC-UPF): First ancient genome recovered from the Mediterranean area

IBE (CSIC-UPF): First ancient genome recovered from the Mediterranean area

News from IBE

An international team of researchers has sequenced the first complete genome of an Iberian farmer, which is also the first ancient genome from the entire Mediterranean area. This new genome allows to know the distinctive genetic changes of Neolithic migration in Southern Europe which led to the abandonment of the hunter-gatherer way of life. The study is led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, a joint center of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain), in collaboration with the Centre for GeoGenetics in Denmark. The results are published in the Molecular Biology and Evolution journal.

The first farmers entering Europe about 8,000 years ago coming from the Near East spread through the continent following two different routes: one to Central Europe via the Danube, and the other towards the Iberian peninsula following the Mediterranean coast. These latter farmers developed their own cultural tradition: the Cardium Pottery, so-called due to a characteristic incised decoration made with the edges of bivalves shells belonging to the genus Cerastoderma (formerly Cardium).

The research team, led by Carles Lalueza-Fox from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, has sequenced the complete genome of a Neolithic woman from a tooth dated in 7400 years and from the cardial levels of the Cova Bonica cave in Vallirana, near Barcelona.

Analysis of the genome from Cova Bonica has allowed to restore the appearance of these pioneer farmers, who had light skin and dark eyes and hair. This contrasts with previous Mesolithic hunters who, as the man from La Braña in León (Spain) -recovered in 2014 by the same researcher team-, had blue eyes and a darker skin than current Europeans. Both individuals are only separated by 600 years and 800 kilometers; however, they are very different from a genetic -and physical- standpoint. Modern Iberians mostly derive from these farmers, but Sardinians and Basques are the current populations that preserve the farming genetic component to a larger extent.

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Olalde I, Schroeder H, Sandoval-Velasco M, Vinner L, Lobón I, Ramirez O, Civit S, García Borja P, Salazar-García DC, Talamo S, Fullola JM, Oms FX, Pedro M, Martínez P, Sanz M, Daura J, Zilhão J, Marquès-Bonet T, Gilbert MTP, and Lalueza-Fox C (21025). A common genetic origin for early farmers from Mediterranean Cardial and Central European LBK cultures. Mol Biol Evol