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Researchers have succeeded in extracting the complete DNA from skull bones, belonging to the woman Peştera Muierii 1 – who lived in Romania 35,000 years ago. She is a little more like us than the individuals in Europe who are five thousand years older, says Uppsala researcher Mattias Jakobsson who led the study.

— But the difference is much smaller than we thought. We can see that she is not a direct forerunner of us who live in Europe today, but she is a forerunner of the hunter-gatherer groups that lived in Europe until the end of the ice age, says Mattias Jakobsson, professor at the Department of Organismal Biology at Uppsala university.

There are very few complete genetic predispositions – through – that are older than 30,000 years that have been sequenced. When the research group can now read the entire genome from Peştera Muierii 1, they can see similarities with what people have today in Europe, but they can also see that she is not an ancestor of us.

Peştera Muierii – one of three in the women’s cave


Peştera Muierii 1 is called one of the three individuals from which remains have been found in the cave of the same name. Peştera Muierii Cave (Hungarian Women’s Cave) is the name of a cave system in Baia de Fier in southern Romania. The cave system is known for its remains from cave bears and because skulls and other parts from three different female individuals who lived there about 35,000-40,000 years ago were found in the 1950s.

Other researchers have seen in previous studies that the shape of her skull has similarities to both modern humans and Neanderthals. Therefore, it has been assumed that she was genetically more similar to Neanderthals than other contemporary individuals, and in that way stood out from the norm. However, the genetic analysis in the current study shows that she has the same low level of Neanderthal DNA as most other remains of individuals who lived at the same time.

Compared to the remains of some individuals who lived 5,000 years earlier, such as Peştera Oase 1, she had only half as many Neanderthal genes.

Genetic bottleneck

An important period in the history of mankind is when modern man spreads and begins to move out of Africa about 80,000 years ago and which is usually described as a genetic bottleneck. Populations migrated from the African continent to Asia and Europe. We still see the effects of the relocation today. The genetic variation is lower in the populations outside Africa than in the populations in Africa. The fact that Peştera Muierii 1 has a high genetic diversity indicates that the greatest loss of genetic diversity occurs during the last ice age (which ends about 10,000 BC) rather than during the out-of-Africa migration.

This is exciting because it teaches us more about the early population history in Europe. Peştera Muierii 1 has much more genetic variation than was thought to exist in Europe at this time. This shows that the genetic variation outside Africa was large until the last ice age, and that it is the ice age that leads to reduced variation in people outside Africa, says Mattias Jakobsson.

Reduced genetic diversity

Researchers have also been able to follow the genetic variation in Europe over the past 35,000 years and see a clear decrease in the variation during the last ice age. Reduced genetic diversity has previously been linked to the fact that harmful gene variants are more common in populations outside Africa, but this has been a controversial issue.

Sampling of samples from Peştera Muierii 1 skull.

— It is thanks to the fact that we have advanced medical genomic tools that we have been able to examine these many thousands of years old remains and have also been able to look for hereditary diseases in them. To our surprise, we found no differences during the last 35,000 years, despite the fact that some individuals who lived during the ice age had low genetic diversity, says Mattias Jakobsson.

— Now we have got everything that goes based on the remains that exist. Peştera Muierii 1 is a culturally and historically important find and certainly still interesting for researchers in other areas, but from a genetic perspective, all data are now available, says Mattias Jakobsson.

This article was originally published by forskning.se

Article source: forskning.se

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