The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe


Share post:

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have retrieved nuclear genome sequences from the femur of a male Neanderthal discovered in 1937 in Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave, Germany, and from the maxillary bone of a Neanderthal girl found in 1993 in Scladina Cave, Belgium. Both Neandertals lived around 120,000 years ago, and therefore predate most of the Neanderthals whose genomes have been sequenced to date.

The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe
The Maxillary bone of a Neanderthal girl from Scladina Cave, Belgium
[Credit: © J. Eloy, AWEM, Archéologie andennaise]

By examining the nuclear genomes of these two individuals, the researchers could show that these early Neanderthals in Western Europe were more closely related to the last Neanderthals who lived in the same region as much as 80,000 years later, than they were to contemporaneous Neanderthals living in Siberia.

The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe
The femur of a male Neanderthal from Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave, Germany
[Credit: © Oleg Kuchar, Museum Ulm]

“The result is truly extraordinary and a stark contrast to the turbulent history of replacements, large-scale admixtures and extinctions that is seen in modern human history”, says Kay Prüfer who supervised the study.

The ancient history of Neanderthals in Europe
Scladina Cave [Credit: D. Bonjean, © Archéologie andennaise]

Intriguingly, unlike the nuclear genome, the mitochondrial genome of the Neanderthal from Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave in Germany is quite different from that of later Neanderthals – a previous report showed that more than 70 mutations distinguish it from the mitochondrial genomes of other Neanderthals.

Processing of samples in the ancient DNA laboratory and analysis of the sequencing data generated 
[Credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology]

The researchers suggest that early European Neanderthals may have inherited DNA from a yet undescribed population. “This unknown population could represent an isolated Neanderthal population yet to be discovered, or may be from a potentially larger population in Africa related to modern humans”, explains Stéphane Peyrégne who led the analysis.

The study is published in Science Advances.

Source: Max Planck Society [June 26, 2019]



Related articles

More on Did climate change drive prehistoric culture change?

Over the past 13,500 years, humans in what is now America were subjected to dramatic climate changes: an...

Scientists investigate origin of Quaternary valleys in Iberian Peninsula

Geologists at the Centro Nacional de Investigacion sobre la Evolucion Humana (CENIEH) have participated in a paper published...

Predicting human evolution: Teeth tell the story

Monash University-led research has shown that the evolution of human teeth is much simpler than previously thought, and...

New studies reveal deep history of archaic humans in southern Siberia

Oxford University scientists have played a key role in new research identifying the earliest evidence of some of...

Newly sequenced genome of extinct giant lemur sheds light on animal’s biology

Using an unusually well-preserved subfossil jawbone, a team of researchers -- led by Penn State and with a...

The chillest ape: How humans evolved a super-high cooling capacity

Humans have a uniquely high density of sweat glands embedded in their skin--10 times the density of chimpanzees...

Rocking the cradle of humankind

In the peaceful grasslands of northern Tanzania, a frenzy of research is occurring. The Olduvai area (from the...

Human prejudice has ancient evolutionary roots

The tendency to perceive others as "us versus them" isn't exclusively human but appears to be shared by...