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2022 Nobel winner charts family tree of our ancestors with the help of an ancient DNA

Researchers have for the first time sequenced multiple individuals from a remote Neandertal community in Siberia, which includes thirteen individuals, who are related in one way or the other. One pair of closely connected ancestors, a father and his teenage daughter, lived with a smaller family of ten to twenty individuals.

Our ancestors are the neanderthals, from which modern humans descended. Around 400,000 to 40,000 years ago, they inhabited Europe, southwest Asia, and central Asia.

Svante Paabo, who won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Medicine for research on human evolution that revealed Neanderthal DNA’s secrets, is the principal investigator of the current study.

The thirteen genomes allowed the worldwide team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology to get insight into the Neanderthal community’s social structure. While researchers have in the past managed to shed light on the broader strokes of Neanderthal history, this is the first time that they are being assessed on an individual level.

The genetic information from the microscopic bone fragments discovered in two Russian caves was used to establish the relationships between 13 different Neanderthals and to gain insight into how they lived. The magazine Nature has published the specifics of their discoveries.


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