Neanderthal Genome Fully Sequenced From Toe Bone
March 20, 2013

Neanderthal Genome Fully Sequenced From Toe Bone

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

A team of German scientists have fully sequenced the genome of the Neanderthal and said they will be making the entire sequence freely available to the scientific community for research. The genome was produced from the remains of a toe bone found in a cave in Siberia, and is far more detailed than a previous mapping of the ancient genome published three years ago by the same team.

Svante Paabo and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig produced the first genome of the Neanderthal in 2009 using data collected from three bones found in a cave in Croatia. Now, using the toe bone fragment from the Denisova Cave, collected in 2010, the team has made the most accurate, high-quality sequence from a single Neanderthal.

The team utilized sensitive techniques they have developed over the past two years to sequence every position in the genome nearly 50 times over, and all from less than two-thousandths-of-an-ounce of sampling from a toe bone.

The analysis indicates that the individual is closely related to other Neanderthals in Europe and western Russia. Also, it shows evidence that Neanderthals and their Denisovan relatives were both present in the Siberian cave in the Altai Mountains, which borders Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

Institute researcher Kay Prufer told UPI that the updated sequence is of “very high quality.”

The new draft “matches the quality of the Denisovan genome, presented last year, and is as good as or even better than the multiple present-day human genomes available to date," Prufer explained.

"We will gain insights into many aspects of the history of both Neanderthals and Denisovans and refine our knowledge about the genetic changes that occurred in the genomes of modern humans after they parted ways with the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans," Paabo said in a statement.

Paabo said his team now plans to publish a scientific paper on the sequencing later this year, but will let other researchers investigate the genome in the meantime.

The announcement was welcomed by others in the scientific community.

These are “exciting times” for comparative studies of modern humans and our ancient relatives, said Wil Roebroeks, an archeologist at Leiden University.

“By combining findings from genetics with studies of early diets, technology and physical anthropology of different human species, scientists would likely yield new insights into our evolutionary past soon,” he said, according to Fox News.

The genome-sequencing project was made possible by financing from the Max Planck Society and is part of Paabo´s efforts on the study of ancient DNA for nearly 30 years. The toe bone was discovered by Professors Anatoly Derevianko and Michael Shunkov from the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). The cave where the bone fragment was found is a unique archeological site that contains indicators that humans and their relatives have occupied the cave as far back as 280,000 years ago.