IBE (CSIC-UPF): A new technique makes it possible to extract the DNA from hominids preserved in soil sediments

IBE (CSIC-UPF): A new technique makes it possible to extract the DNA from hominids preserved in soil sediments

News from IBE (CSIC-UPF)

The sediments forming the layers or strata at archaeological sites can be very rich in bone remains, but until now their possible fossil DNA content had not attracted the attention of paleoanthropologists. Now, a new technique developed by an international team, in which Carles Lalueza, CSIC Research Professor at the IBE, allows the remains of groups of hominids in these sediments to be traced, even in caves or in strata which have no skeletal remains. The results are published in the latest issue of Science.

The method is based on the analysis of fragments of mitochondrial DNA, which are most abundant in the majority of eukaryotic cells. In this study, the researchers analysed 85 samples of sediments from the Pleistocene, between 550,000 and 14,000 years ago, from eight Eurasian caves, including El Sidrón (Asturias, northern Spain).

"This work represents an enormous scientific breakthrough. We can now tell which species of hominid occupied a cave and on which particular stratigraphic level, even when no bone or skeletal remains are present. We now have to learn to make best use of the soil sediment which until now was discarded, and to discover that it is teeming with DNA sequences from the organisms that occupied that land", says Antonio Rosas, CSIC scientist at the Spain’s Natural Science Museum in Madrid.

More information:
IBE website

Reference Article:
Slon, V.; Hopfe, C.; Weiß, C.L.; Mafessoni, F.; de la Rasilla, M.; Lalueza-Fox, C.; Rosas, A.; Soressi, M.; Knul, M.V.; Miller, R.; Stewart, J.R.;Derevianko, A.P.; Jacobs, Z.; Li, B.; Roberts, R.G.; Shunkov, M.V.; de Lumley, H.; Perrenoud, C.; Gušić, I.; Kućan, Z.; Rudan, P.; Aximu-Petri, A.; Essel, E.; Nagel, S.; Nickel, B.; Schmidt, A.; Prüfer, K.; Kelso, J.; Burbano, H.A.; Pääbo, S.; Meyer, M. 2017. Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from Pleistocene sediments. Sciencie: eaam9695 DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9695