1,77 million years old tooth yields genetic material from extinct human species

Scientists have extracted from dental enamel the oldest human genetic material ever obtained, helping clarify the pivotal place in the human evolutionary lineage of a mysterious extinct species called Homo antecessor known from Spanish cave fossils. The researchers said they obtained genetic material from an 800,000-year-old Homo antecessor molar unearthed near the village of Atapuerca in northern Spain and from a 1.77 million-year-old molar of another extinct human species called Homo erectus found near the town of Dmanisi in Georgia. They retrieved the ancient proteins from fossilized teeth using a method called palaeoproteomics that can find genetic material in fossils too old to contain DNA because of its chemical degradation over time.

Protein sequences are determined by the DNA sequence of our genomes, and therefore these ancient protein sequences provide some evolutionary information. We have previously shown we are able to extract ancient proteins even from 2 million year old animal fossils,” University of Copenhagen molecular anthropologist Frido Welker, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature, said on Monday.

Until now, the oldest genetic material from an extinct human species was dated to about 420,000 years ago.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

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