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Neandertal genome from Les Cottés site sequenced

On March 21 2018, a study was published in Nature, co-authored by Professor M. Soressi from the Faculty of Archaeology of Leiden University, announcing the sequencing of five new Neandertals, raising the number of high-coverage sequenced Neandertals from two to seven. A tooth lost by a Neandertal woman at Les Cottés, one of the field school of the Faculty of Archaeology, was included in the study.

New techniques

The Les Cottés tooth provided well preserved DNA with one of the best coverage (5.7 -fold) obtained for a fossil hominin found in an open-air rock-shelter, which was barely protected for the last 35,000 years. Mateja Hajdinjak, first author of the study, and other geneticists from the Max Planck Institute for evolutionary anthropology in Leipzig Germany and from elsewhere have put together a new technique to extract more native DNA from small amounts of fossil hominins remains. With that new technique, they demonstrated that “the generation of genome sequences from a large number of archaic humans individuals is now technically feasible”, says senior author Janet Kelso.

No modern human DNA

The study also demonstrates that Neandertal populations experienced an important turnover right at the end of their history. Intriguingly, even though four of the analysed Neandertals were contemporaneous with the first modern humans in Europe, none of them showed detectable amounts of modern human DNA. “It may be that gene flows was mostly unidirectional, from Neandertals into modern humans” says Svante Pääbo, second senior author of the study. 

Rock-shelters

For Professor Soressi from the Faculty of Archaeology in Leiden, “most of the remains of ancient hominin are found in rock-shelters, not protected deep inside the underground in caves. Now it’s clear that most of the available Neandertal remains should still contain extractable and meaningful amounts of ancient Neandertal DNA”.

More information

Read the original article in Nature.

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