Mysterious ancestor finds new place in humanity's family tree

Mysterious ancestor finds new place in humanity's family tree

News from CRG, IBE

The Proteomics Unit of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) has played a vital role in the analysis of an eight hundred thousand-year-old human fossil. The results shed light on one of the branching points in the human family tree, reaching much further back in time than previously possible.

The findings by scientists from the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with the CENIEH (National Research Center on Human Evolution) in Burgos, Spain, and other institutions including the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE: CSIC-UPF) have been published in Nature.

"The use of mass spectroscopy to study proteins, also known as palaeoproteomics, adds huge value to these types of projects", says Eduard Sabidó, Head of the CRG and UPF Proteomics Unit. "Some proteins can be conserved for a very long time, helping us study ancient hominid samples that are too old to use traditional sequencing tools, because DNA is too unstable and has completely broken down over time".

"The recovery of molecular samples from very old fossils combined with new computational techniques has brought about a revolution in the way we understand the relationship of species that are no longer among us. Many researchers in this study are involved in a European network of evolutionary work, and the coming years promise to be fascinating", says Tomàs Marquès-Bonet, director of the IBE.


F. Welker  The dental proteome of Homo antecessor. Nature; April 2020. DOI:

More information:
CRG website
IBE website