Ancient DNA revolutionized archaeology. Now, researchers think they can use it to create a GPS system for the remains of the long-dead.
Lets face it: Even with the modern conveniences of U-Hauls and cardboard boxes, moving is a pain. For Neolithic humans living in Europe 5,000 years ago, the obstaclesroaming predators, lack of transportation, unforgivingmust have seemed insurmountable. Deep in the past, a few humans could have moved hundreds of kilometers, certainly, but most people at that time would not have, says Chris Tyler-Smith, a human genetics researcher at England's Sanger Institute.
New research based on a novel mapping technique, however, suggests otherwise. By combining genetic data with archaeology, researchers analyzed the DNA of over 300 ancient Eurasians and Near-Eastern Europeans to find that these people may have roamed surprisingly far. They found that 50 percent of ancient skeletons were in graves more than 100 miles from their place of origin, 30 percent were up to 620 miles away, and the remaining people had roamed as far as 1,900 miles from their homes.
This is the first time anyone has ever been able to do anything like this, says Eran Elhaik, one of the pioneers of the new technique and a geneticist at the University of Sheffield. We were able to see the emergence of farming, and populations moving because they exhausted the land, and then irrigation systems. As the populations moved, they replaced all the hunter-gatherers. Elhaik and his team presented their preliminary findings last month at the European Society of Human Genetics Conference.
Archaeologists and geneticists alike have speculated about how and where humans migrated across Europe. Based on skeletal remains, they believe Europe was populated by modern humans around 45,000 years ago as hominins moved out of Africa and into other parts of the world. Europe was then largely depopulated when the most recent ice age took hold around 25,000 years ago, except for some stalwart holdouts who found survivable conditions in southern Europe.
Archaeologists have long hypothesized that Europe was colonized by successive waves of hunter-gatherers, based on clear differences in stone tools and bone and shell ornaments recovered from sites across Europe and the Middle East, writes Ewen Callaway for Nature.
But its only recently that archaeologists have been able to compare their material data to the story that genetics tells. With recent advances in analyzing ancient DNA, were beginning to get a much clearerand more complexpicture about these humans and their lives.
DNA is notoriously delicate. It can only survive intact under certain environmental conditions, and prefers cold places. In human samples, the best place to find it from is the petrous bone on the skull, near the ear. But even once youve gotten your hands on some usable DNA, mining it for useful information comes with a series of hurdles.
Extracting ancient DNA and sequencing it with next-generation techniques results in a hodgepodge of information. The DNA isnt just from the ancient humanits also from the surrounding environment, and maybe from contamination introduced by modern researchers. To sort through this tangle, researchers rely on computer assistance to identify a single mitochondrial DNA sequence (the presence of more than one indicates contamination) and pick out deterioration patterns that signal human DNA.
But once those snippets of human DNA have been plucked from the mess, they can open up a world of discoveries. We can learn about everything from what ancient humans like tzi the ice mummyate and wore, to how often Neanderthals and humans were procreating. I think its one of the most exciting developments in science in the last few decades, says Tyler-Smith. People have compared it to the development of radiocarbon dating in the middle of the 20th century in terms of its impact.
Elhaik has expanded on the information that can be extracted from ancient DNA using a technique he pioneered with living humans, called Geographic Population Structure, or GPS. This technique relies on datasets that compare single nucleotide polymorphismsdifferences in DNA nucleotides that act as biological markers among individuals. The GPS method uses the SNPs (pronounced snips) of populations that have been in one place for multiple generations, then contrasts it to groups that live farther away.
We didnt just hack a cool acronym, it really works like GPS navigation, Elhaik says. Instead of satellites were using populations that are very well localized to their regions.
In a 2014 study in Nature Communications, Elhaik and his colleagues applied the GPS method to more than 600 people around the world, and were able to correctly assign 83 percent of those individuals to their country of origin. When the same technique was applied to 200 Sardinian villagers, a quarter of them were placed in their villages and the majority of people were placed within 50 km of their homes.
The same technique is at play in their new research. We used ancient DNA extracted from skeleton remains from 12000 BC to 500 AD," saysElhaik."The DNA goes in and coordinates come outthough he adds that the sample size is far smaller for ancient individuals, so there are far more gaps across the continent. Think of it as GPS for the long-dead.
If you have perhaps 20 or 30 people who come from the same population, then theres extra information you can get, says Tyler-Smith, who is not involved in the GPS research. But, he adds, bigger numbers are always better.
But geneticists and archaeologists dont always agree on the finer points of prehistory. For Marc Vander Linden, a professor of archaeology at University College London, using such small sample sizes to draw large conclusions is problematic.
Geneticists have suggested wide-scale processes on the basis of limited, spatially clustered samples, and thenwronglygeneralized these results for the entire corresponding archaeological cultures, Linden said by email. Both archaeologists and geneticists need to fully realize and consider that genes and material culture do not operate in the same spheres of action, nor do they unfold upon the same spatial and temporal scales.
Linden does agree that geneticists work in ancient DNA has revolutionized the field and opened up new avenues of inquiry. Ancient DNA research, alongside other types of data, points to the fact that the population history of prehistoric Europe was in constant flux and marked by numerous episodes of both expansion and retraction.
If Elhaiks technique pans out, it could answer tantalizing questions about human migrationfor instance, how agriculture came to the region. Archaeologists have debated for decades whether it was transmitted by human migration, or by the movement of the idea itself. Part of the debate has recently been settled by genetics, with researchers seeing the movement of agricultural communities from the Near-East into the hunter-gatherer groups in Europe. Elhaik thinks his groups research will further elucidate that question and show more precise movements of multiple groups of people.
For Tyler-Smith, that type of increased resolution into the broad outlines of the past is the future of the field. Hed also like to see more samples from other parts of the worldthe hotter, dryer regions like Africa and southern Europe where its been harder to find ancient DNA still intact due to the environmental conditions. For now, though, unraveling European migration is itself helping us make sense of human ancestryand the fact that were all mutts.
Theres no such thing as a European population thats been around for 40,000 years, Tyler-Smith says. Mixing has been going on throughout prehistory and I think we will see that in every part of the world as we come to study it in this level of detail.
Read this article:
- Scientist Who Discovered BRCA1 Gene to Give Free Talk on Cancer And Genetics - Noozhawk - January 19th, 2020
- Genetic testing firm 23andMe is first to create a drug using its customers' DNA - The Times - January 19th, 2020
- Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation to Host Genomic Medicine Symposium - P&T Community - January 19th, 2020
- 11 Year-Old Bertrand Might Cant Cry Scientists Have Now Discovered Why - SciTechDaily - January 19th, 2020
- Transposons Identified as Likely Cause of Undiagnosed Diseases - The Scientist - January 19th, 2020
- Do genetic ancestry tests know if you're Palestinian? A cautionary tale of race and science - ABC News - January 19th, 2020
- Controlling Our Own Evolution: What is the Future of Gene-Editing? - The Globe Post - January 19th, 2020
- There is a new player in adult bone healing - Baylor College of Medicine News - January 19th, 2020
- Air Pollution, Evolution, and the Fate of Billions of Humans - The New York Times - January 19th, 2020
- A New York Times column on 'Jewish genius' draws criticism for linking to a debunked University of Utah study - Salt Lake Tribune - January 5th, 2020
- Ambroxol Reverses Bone Damage in Girl With GD Type 1, Case Study Shows - Gaucher Disease News - January 5th, 2020
- Gene editing breakthroughs that cured genetic diseases in 2019 - The Star Online - January 5th, 2020
- Digid8 and the Emergence of DNA Matchmaking - Study Breaks - January 5th, 2020
- Etched in DNA: Decoding the secrets of the past - Christian Science Monitor - January 5th, 2020
- The Face of Science - Clemson World magazine - January 5th, 2020
- Aborting Babies Because They're Gay: Coming Soon to China - Patheos - January 5th, 2020
- Mutants among us: "Natural short sleepers" reveal the genetics of sleep - Inverse - January 5th, 2020
- The End of Infertility Is in Sight - UCSF News Services - January 5th, 2020
- Who is a Jew? DNA home testing adds new wrinkle to age-old debate - The Jewish News of Northern California - December 1st, 2019
- Humans and autoimmune diseases continue to evolve together - Medical News Today - December 1st, 2019
- Mutations in emerging autism gene tied to distinct traits - Spectrum - December 1st, 2019
- Gail Fisher's 'Dog Tracks': Spoiling you dog with extra food could cut short its life - The Union Leader - December 1st, 2019
- In a Wisconsin village, the doctor makes house calls and sees the rarest diseases on Earth - USA TODAY - December 1st, 2019
- Alzheimer's and Autism: Researchers Pinpoint Genetic Mutations Overlapping in Both Diseases - Being Patient - December 1st, 2019
- How do consumer DNA tests from the US and China stack up? - Abacus - December 1st, 2019
- Is Nature vs. Nurture an Outdated Concept? - The National Interest Online - December 1st, 2019
- Collection of genetic data leads to privacy concerns - The New Economy - December 1st, 2019
- Is sexual orientation genetic? Yes and no, an extensive study finds - Haaretz - November 19th, 2019
- Sexual orientation cannot be changed at will, lawyers argue - The Straits Times - November 19th, 2019
- Adam and Eve Are Possible: A Second Bite at the Genetic Apple - Christianheadlines.com - November 19th, 2019
- InterVenn Biosciences Announces Positive Interim Clinical Trial Results and Appoints Biotech Veteran Klaus Lindpaintner, M.D. as Chief Scientific and... - November 19th, 2019
- How maternal Zika infection results in newborn microcephaly - Baylor College of Medicine News - November 19th, 2019
- Dicerna scores broad, 'rest of liver' deal with Novo Nordisk, bagging $225M in cash to hit some 30 targets with RNAi platform - Endpoints News - November 19th, 2019
- Sexual orientation cannot be wilfully changed, say lawyers fighting to repeal Section 377A - The Straits Times - November 19th, 2019
- The American Heart Association's Annual Conference Comes to Philly This Weekend - Philadelphia magazine - November 19th, 2019
- Clear link between genetics and depressive symptoms uncovered - The Age - November 19th, 2019
- At-Home DNA Tests Still Need the 'Human Touch,' Say Panelists at Genomics Roundtable Workshop - National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and... - November 19th, 2019
- How in utero Zika virus infection can lead to microcephaly in newborns: Baylor research - Outbreak News Today - November 19th, 2019
- Taller People have Increased Risk of Irregular Heartbeat - News18 - November 19th, 2019
- In Down syndrome mouse model, scientists reverse intellectual deficits with drugs - University of California - November 19th, 2019
- Alector Reports Recent Business Highlights and Third Quarter 2019 Financial Results - GlobeNewswire - November 19th, 2019
- One of the World's Greatest Geneticists, He Gave Up British Citizenship for India - The Better India - November 19th, 2019
- Section 377A constitutional challenge: Expert evidence reveal sexual orientation cannot be changed at will, lawyers argue - The Online Citizen - November 19th, 2019
- Co-creator of CRISPR lectures about future applications of genome editing technology - Daily Bruin - November 19th, 2019
- Connecting gene mutations, rare genetic diseases - Baylor College of Medicine News - October 28th, 2019
- Utah researchers discover link between certain brain cells and anxiety, OCD - KSL.com - October 28th, 2019
- UH Receives $2M to Study Cancer Risks of Environmental Toxins - Big Island Now - October 28th, 2019
- Genetic testing could keep you healthy. But what about personal info? - Deseret News - October 28th, 2019
- Student group works to foster diversity in the sciences - UChicago News - October 28th, 2019
- Takeaways from ASHG 2019 in Houston: Users of Bionano's Saphyr System Presented Validation Results for FSHD, Repeat Expansion Disorders and Digital... - October 28th, 2019
- DNA research holds the keys to human history but it's being weaponized by politicians - Haaretz - October 28th, 2019
- Scientists have created the first-ever 18-carbon ring, a major feat of molecular architecture - Massive Science - October 28th, 2019
- Law, Privacy and Genome Human Rights Failure in Russia - Putin's Fascination with Hitler's Eugenics Project - Communal News - October 28th, 2019
- Neural activity plays an important role in longevity - CMU The Tartan Online - October 28th, 2019
- Book Summary: Genetics and the Aryan Debate by Shrikant Talageri- I - IndiaFacts - October 28th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: This Week on Bitfinex, Tether, Coinbase, & More - May 25th, 2019
- Ripple Price Forecast: XRP vs SWIFT, SEC Updates, and More - May 25th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETFs, Andreessen Horowitz, and Contradictions in Crypto - May 25th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: Looking Past the Bithumb Crypto Hack - May 25th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: XRP Validators, Malta, and Practical Tokens - May 25th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETF Rejection, AMD Microchip Sales, and Hedge Funds - May 25th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: What You Need to Know This Week - May 25th, 2019
- Bitcoin Rise: Is the Recent Bitcoin Price Surge a Sign of Things to Come or Another Misdirection? - May 25th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: Vitalik Buterin Doesn’t Care About Bitcoin ETFs - May 25th, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: New Exchanges Could Boost Crypto Liquidity - May 25th, 2019
- Human genetics - Wikipedia - May 5th, 2019
- Human Genetics - medschool.ucla.edu - May 5th, 2019
- Department of Human Genetics | The University of Chicago - May 5th, 2019
- Human genetics | biology | Britannica.com - May 2nd, 2019
- What is Bitcoin Cash? - finance.yahoo.com - April 29th, 2019
- Bitcoin Soars As Ethereum, Ripple's XRP, Bitcoin Cash, And ... - April 29th, 2019
- Bitcoin Cash - finance.yahoo.com - April 29th, 2019
- What is Bitcoin Cash? - Coin Rivet - April 29th, 2019
- Bitcoin Cash - Wikipedia - April 29th, 2019
- Ripple Price Forecast: XRP vs SWIFT, SEC Updates, and More - April 21st, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: Looking Past the Bithumb Crypto Hack - April 21st, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: This Week on Bitfinex, Tether, Coinbase, & More - April 21st, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: XRP Validators, Malta, and Practical Tokens - April 21st, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETFs, Andreessen Horowitz, and Contradictions in Crypto - April 21st, 2019
- Cryptocurrency News: New Exchanges Could Boost Crypto Liquidity - April 21st, 2019