Researchers find Neanderthal DNA in caves

Researchers find Neanderthal DNA in caves

A team of researchers has announced that the DNA of two extinct human relatives has been detected in the mud of ancient caves, even though those caves hold no skeletal remains.

Researchers found the genetic material of the Neanderthals and the mysterious branch of humans called the Denisovans in sediment samples collected from 7 archaeological sites in Belgium, Spain, Croatia, France and Russia.

The sediment samples colelcteed by the researchers form the seven archeological sites cover a time span from an estimated 14,000 to 550,000 years ago.

Antonio Rosas, from Madrid-based Natural Science Museum, said, “This work represents an enormous scientific breakthrough. We can now tell which species of hominid occupied a cave and on which particular stratigraphic level, even when no bone or skeletal remains are present.”

Study author Matthias Meyer, a geneticist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said that the new technique would likely fill blank spots in researchers’ understanding of where and how humans evolved.

The international team of researchers described the results of their study in the most recent edition of the journal Science.