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07 Dec 2019 at 08:04
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Bibliography on: Paleontology Meets Genomics — Sequencing Ancient DNA


Robert J. Robbins is a biologist, an educator, a science administrator, a publisher, an information technologist, and an IT leader and manager who specializes in advancing biomedical knowledge and supporting education through the application of information technology. More About:  RJR | OUR TEAM | OUR SERVICES | THIS WEBSITE

RJR: Recommended Bibliography 07 Dec 2019 at 08:04 Created: 

Paleontology Meets Genomics — Sequencing Ancient DNA

The ideas behind Jurassic Park have become real, kinda sorta. It is now possible to retrieve and sequence DNA from ancient specimens. Although these sequences are based on poor quality DNA and thus have many inferential steps (i,e, the resulting sequence is not likely to be a perfect replica of the living DNA), the insights to be gained from paleosequentcing are nonetheless great. For example, paleo-sequencing has shown that Neanderthal DNA is sufficiently different from human DNA as to be reasonably considered as coming from a different species.

Created with PubMed® Query: "ancient DNA" OR "ancient genome" OR paleogenetic OR paleogenetics NOT pmcbook NOT ispreviousversion

Citations The Papers (from PubMed®)

RevDate: 2019-12-06

Orlando L (2019)

Ancient Genomes Reveal Unexpected Horse Domestication and Management Dynamics.

BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology [Epub ahead of print].

The horse was essential to past human societies but became a recreational animal during the twentieth century as the world became increasingly mechanized. As the author reviews here, recent studies of ancient genomes have revisited the understanding of horse domestication, from the very early stages to the most modern developments. They have uncovered several extinct lineages roaming the far ends of Eurasia some 4000 years ago. They have shown that the domestic horse has been significantly reshaped during the last millennium and experienced a sharp decline in genetic diversity within the last two centuries. At a time when no truly wild horses exist any longer, this calls for enhanced conservation in all endangered populations. These include the Przewalski's horse native to Mongolia, and the many local breeds side-lined by the modern agenda, but yet representing the living heritage of over five millennia of horse breeding.

RevDate: 2019-12-05

Nazari V, Tarmann GM, KA Efetov (2019)

Phylogenetic position of the 'extinct' Fijian coconut moth, Levuana iridescens (Lepidoptera: Zygaenidae).

PloS one, 14(12):e0225590 pii:PONE-D-19-11660.

Levuana iridescens Bethune-Baker, 1906, a day-flying moth purported to be endemic to the Fijian Island of Viti Levu and a former pest of its coconut palm trees, was last observed in 1956 and has been officially declared extinct by IUCN since 1996. The controversial classical biological control method that resulted in the (presumed) demise of this moth has given this species an iconic status in biological control studies. We investigated the sister-group relationships and phylogenetic placement of this moth using NGS-obtained ancient DNA sequences from museum specimens of L. iridescens collected in the 1920s, combined with 31 morphological characters used in earlier studies and 2 new characters. Our findings show that Levuana is most closely related to the Australian genus Myrtartona. The significance of these findings is discussed.

RevDate: 2019-12-03

Mordechai L, Eisenberg M, Newfield TP, et al (2019)

The Justinianic Plague: An inconsequential pandemic?.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America pii:1903797116 [Epub ahead of print].

Existing mortality estimates assert that the Justinianic Plague (circa 541 to 750 CE) caused tens of millions of deaths throughout the Mediterranean world and Europe, helping to end antiquity and start the Middle Ages. In this article, we argue that this paradigm does not fit the evidence. We examine a series of independent quantitative and qualitative datasets that are directly or indirectly linked to demographic and economic trends during this two-century period: Written sources, legislation, coinage, papyri, inscriptions, pollen, ancient DNA, and mortuary archaeology. Individually or together, they fail to support the maximalist paradigm: None has a clear independent link to plague outbreaks and none supports maximalist reconstructions of late antique plague. Instead of large-scale, disruptive mortality, when contextualized and examined together, the datasets suggest continuity across the plague period. Although demographic, economic, and political changes continued between the 6th and 8th centuries, the evidence does not support the now commonplace claim that the Justinianic Plague was a primary causal factor of them.

RevDate: 2019-12-03

McHugo GP, Dover MJ, DE MacHugh (2019)

Unlocking the origins and biology of domestic animals using ancient DNA and paleogenomics.

BMC biology, 17(1):98 pii:10.1186/s12915-019-0724-7.

Animal domestication has fascinated biologists since Charles Darwin first drew the parallel between evolution via natural selection and human-mediated breeding of livestock and companion animals. In this review we show how studies of ancient DNA from domestic animals and their wild progenitors and congeners have shed new light on the genetic origins of domesticates, and on the process of domestication itself. High-resolution paleogenomic data sets now provide unprecedented opportunities to explore the development of animal agriculture across the world. In addition, functional population genomics studies of domestic and wild animals can deliver comparative information useful for understanding recent human evolution.

RevDate: 2019-12-02

Beltrame MO, Pruzzo C, Sanabria R, et al (2019)


Parasitology pii:S0031182019001719 [Epub ahead of print].

RevDate: 2019-11-30

Hagan RW, Hofman CA, Hübner A, et al (2019)

Comparison of extraction methods for recovering ancient microbial DNA from paleofeces.

American journal of physical anthropology [Epub ahead of print].

OBJECTIVES: Paleofeces are valuable to archeologists and evolutionary biologists for their potential to yield health, dietary, and host information. As a rich source of preserved biomolecules from host-associated microorganisms, they can also provide insights into the recent evolution and changing ecology of the gut microbiome. However, there is currently no standard method for DNA extraction from paleofeces, which combine the dual challenges of complex biological composition and degraded DNA. Due to the scarcity and relatively poor preservation of paleofeces when compared with other archeological remains, it is important to use efficient methods that maximize ancient DNA (aDNA) recovery while also minimizing downstream taxonomic biases.

METHODS: In this study, we use shotgun metagenomics to systematically compare the performance of five DNA extraction methods on a set of well-preserved human and dog paleofeces from Mexico (~1,300 BP).

RESULTS: Our results show that all tested DNA extraction methods yield a consistent microbial taxonomic profile, but that methods optimized for ancient samples recover significantly more DNA.

CONCLUSIONS: These results show promise for future studies that seek to explore the evolution of the human gut microbiome by comparing aDNA data with those generated in modern studies.

RevDate: 2019-11-27

Ameen C, Feuerborn TR, Brown SK, et al (2019)

Specialized sledge dogs accompanied Inuit dispersal across the North American Arctic.

Proceedings. Biological sciences, 286(1916):20191929.

Domestic dogs have been central to life in the North American Arctic for millennia. The ancestors of the Inuit were the first to introduce the widespread usage of dog sledge transportation technology to the Americas, but whether the Inuit adopted local Palaeo-Inuit dogs or introduced a new dog population to the region remains unknown. To test these hypotheses, we generated mitochondrial DNA and geometric morphometric data of skull and dental elements from a total of 922 North American Arctic dogs and wolves spanning over 4500 years. Our analyses revealed that dogs from Inuit sites dating from 2000 BP possess morphological and genetic signatures that distinguish them from earlier Palaeo-Inuit dogs, and identified a novel mitochondrial clade in eastern Siberia and Alaska. The genetic legacy of these Inuit dogs survives today in modern Arctic sledge dogs despite phenotypic differences between archaeological and modern Arctic dogs. Together, our data reveal that Inuit dogs derive from a secondary pre-contact migration of dogs distinct from Palaeo-Inuit dogs, and probably aided the Inuit expansion across the North American Arctic beginning around 1000 BP.

RevDate: 2019-11-28

Thomas JE, Carvalho GR, Haile J, et al (2019)

Demographic reconstruction from ancient DNA supports rapid extinction of the great auk.

eLife, 8:.

The great auk was once abundant and distributed across the North Atlantic. It is now extinct, having been heavily exploited for its eggs, meat, and feathers. We investigated the impact of human hunting on its demise by integrating genetic data, GPS-based ocean current data, and analyses of population viability. We sequenced complete mitochondrial genomes of 41 individuals from across the species' geographic range and reconstructed population structure and population dynamics throughout the Holocene. Taken together, our data do not provide any evidence that great auks were at risk of extinction prior to the onset of intensive human hunting in the early 16th century. In addition, our population viability analyses reveal that even if the great auk had not been under threat by environmental change, human hunting alone could have been sufficient to cause its extinction. Our results emphasise the vulnerability of even abundant and widespread species to intense and localised exploitation.

RevDate: 2019-11-23

Fenderson LE, Kovach AI, B Llamas (2019)

Spatiotemporal Landscape Genetics: Investigating Ecology and Evolution through Space and Time.

Molecular ecology [Epub ahead of print].

Genetic time-series data from historical samples greatly facilitate inference of past population dynamics and species evolution. Yet, although climate and landscape change are often touted as post-hoc explanations of biological change, our understanding of past climate and landscape change influences on evolutionary processes is severely hindered by the limited application of methods that directly relate environmental change to species dynamics through time. Increased integration of spatiotemporal environmental and genetic data will revolutionize the interpretation of environmental influences on past population processes, the quantification of recent anthropogenic impacts on species, and vastly improve prediction of species responses under future climate change scenarios, yielding widespread revelations across evolutionary biology, landscape ecology and conservation genetics. This review encourages greater use of spatiotemporal landscape genetic analyses that explicitly link landscape, climate and genetic data through time by providing an overview of analytical approaches for integrating historical genetic and environmental data in five key research areas: population genetic structure, demography, phylogeography, metapopulation connectivity, and adaptation. We also include a tabular summary of key methodological information, suggest approaches for mitigating the particular difficulties in applying these techniques to ancient DNA and paleoclimate data, and highlight areas for future methodological development.

RevDate: 2019-11-23

Ozga AT, Gilby I, Nockerts RS, et al (2019)

Oral microbiome diversity in chimpanzees from Gombe National Park.

Scientific reports, 9(1):17354 pii:10.1038/s41598-019-53802-1.

Historic calcified dental plaque (dental calculus) can provide a unique perspective into the health status of past human populations but currently no studies have focused on the oral microbial ecosystem of other primates, including our closest relatives, within the hominids. Here we use ancient DNA extraction methods, shotgun library preparation, and next generation Illumina sequencing to examine oral microbiota from 19 dental calculus samples recovered from wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) who died in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. The resulting sequences were trimmed for quality, analyzed using MALT, MEGAN, and alignment scripts, and integrated with previously published dental calculus microbiome data. We report significant differences in oral microbiome phyla between chimpanzees and anatomically modern humans (AMH), with chimpanzees possessing a greater abundance of Bacteroidetes and Fusobacteria, and AMH showing higher Firmicutes and Proteobacteria. Our results suggest that by using an enterotype clustering method, results cluster largely based on host species. These clusters are driven by Porphyromonas and Fusobacterium genera in chimpanzees and Haemophilus and Streptococcus in AMH. Additionally, we compare a nearly complete Porphyromonas gingivalis genome to previously published genomes recovered from human gingiva to gain perspective on evolutionary relationships across host species. Finally, using shotgun sequence data we assessed indicators of diet from DNA in calculus and suggest exercising caution when making assertions related to host lifestyle. These results showcase core differences between host species and stress the importance of continued sequencing of nonhuman primate microbiomes in order to fully understand the complexity of their oral ecologies.

RevDate: 2019-11-26

Maixner F, Thorell K, Granehäll L, et al (2019)

Helicobacter pylori in ancient human remains.

World journal of gastroenterology, 25(42):6289-6298.

The bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infects the stomachs of approximately 50% of all humans. With its universal occurrence, high infectivity and virulence properties it is considered as one of the most severe global burdens of modern humankind. It has accompanied humans for many thousands of years, and due to its high genetic variability and vertical transmission, its population genetics reflects the history of human migrations. However, especially complex demographic events such as the colonisation of Europe cannot be resolved with population genetic analysis of modern H. pylori strains alone. This is best exemplified with the reconstruction of the 5300-year-old H. pylori genome of the Iceman, a European Copper Age mummy. Our analysis provided precious insights into the ancestry and evolution of the pathogen and underlined the high complexity of ancient European population history. In this review we will provide an overview on the molecular analysis of H. pylori in mummified human remains that were done so far and we will outline methodological advancements in the field of ancient DNA research that support the reconstruction and authentication of ancient H. pylori genome sequences.

RevDate: 2019-11-20

Müller P, Sell C, Hadrys T, et al (2019)

Inter-laboratory study on standardized MPS libraries: evaluation of performance, concordance, and sensitivity using mixtures and degraded DNA.

International journal of legal medicine pii:10.1007/s00414-019-02201-2 [Epub ahead of print].

We present results from an inter-laboratory massively parallel sequencing (MPS) study in the framework of the SeqForSTRs project to evaluate forensically relevant parameters, such as performance, concordance, and sensitivity, using a standardized sequencing library including reference material, mixtures, and ancient DNA samples. The standardized library was prepared using the ForenSeq DNA Signature Prep Kit (primer mix A). The library was shared between eight European laboratories located in Austria, France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Sweden to perform MPS on their particular MiSeq FGx sequencers. Despite variation in performance between sequencing runs, all laboratories obtained quality metrics that fell within the manufacturer's recommended ranges. Furthermore, differences in locus coverage did not inevitably adversely affect heterozygous balance. Inter-laboratory concordance showed 100% concordant genotypes for the included autosomal and Y-STRs, and still, X-STR concordance exceeded 83%. The exclusive reasons for X-STR discordances were drop-outs at DXS10103. Sensitivity experiments demonstrated that correct allele calling varied between sequencing instruments in particular for lower DNA amounts (≤ 125 pg). The analysis of compromised DNA samples showed the drop-out of one sample (FA10013B01A) while for the remaining three degraded DNA samples MPS was able to successfully type ≥ 87% of all aSTRs, ≥ 78% of all Y-STRs, ≥ 68% of all X-STRs, and ≥ 92% of all iSNPs demonstrating that MPS is a promising tool for human identity testing, which in return, has to undergo rigorous in-house validation before it can be implemented into forensic routine casework.

RevDate: 2019-11-20

Grugni V, Raveane A, Colombo G, et al (2019)

Y-chromosome and Surname Analyses for Reconstructing Past Population Structures: The Sardinian Population as a Test Case.

International journal of molecular sciences, 20(22): pii:ijms20225763.

Many anthropological, linguistic, genetic and genomic analyses have been carried out to evaluate the potential impact that evolutionary forces had in shaping the present-day Sardinian gene pool, the main outlier in the genetic landscape of Europe. However, due to the homogenizing effect of internal movements, which have intensified over the past fifty years, only partial information has been obtained about the main demographic events. To overcome this limitation, we analyzed the male-specific region of the Y chromosome in three population samples obtained by reallocating a large number of Sardinian subjects to the place of origin of their monophyletic surnames, which are paternally transmitted through generations in most of the populations, much like the Y chromosome. Three Y-chromosome founding lineages, G2-L91, I2-M26 and R1b-V88, were identified as strongly contributing to the definition of the outlying position of Sardinians in the European genetic context and marking a significant differentiation within the island. The present distribution of these lineages does not always mirror that detected in ancient DNAs. Our results show that the analysis of the Y-chromosome gene pool coupled with a sampling method based on the origin of the family name, is an efficient approach to unravelling past heterogeneity, often hidden by recent movements, in the gene pool of modern populations. Furthermore, the reconstruction and comparison of past genetic isolates represent a starting point to better assess the genetic information deriving from the increasing number of available ancient DNA samples.

RevDate: 2019-11-21

Chen P, Wu J, Luo L, et al (2019)

Population Genetic Analysis of Modern and Ancient DNA Variations Yields New Insights Into the Formation, Genetic Structure, and Phylogenetic Relationship of Northern Han Chinese.

Frontiers in genetics, 10:1045.

Modern East Asians derived from the admixture of aborigines and incoming farmers expanding from Yellow and Yangtze River Basins. Distinct genetic differentiation and subsequent admixture between Northeast Asians and Southeast Asians subsequently evidenced by the mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosomal variations, and autosomal SNPs. Recently, population geneticists have paid more attention to the genetic polymorphisms and background of southern-Han Chinese and southern native populations. The genetic legacy of northern-Han remains uncharacterized. Thus, we performed this comprehensive population genetic analyses of modern and ancient genetic variations aiming to yield new insight into the formation of modern Han, and the genetic ancestry and phylogenetic relationship of the northern-Han Chinese population. We first genotyped 25 forensic associated markers in 3,089 northern-Han Chinese individuals using the new-generation of the Huaxia Platinum System. And then we performed the first meta-analysis focused on the genetic affinity between Asian Neolithic∼Iron Age ancients and modern northern-Han Chinese by combining mitochondrial variations in 417 ancient individuals from 13 different archeological sites and 812 modern individuals, as well as Y-chromosomal variations in 114 ancient individuals from 12 Neolithic∼Iron Age sites and 2,810 modern subjects. We finally genotyped 643,897 genome-wide nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 20 Shanxi Han individuals and combined with 1,927 modern humans and 40 Eurasian ancient genomes to explore the genetic structure and admixture of northern-Han Chinese. We addressed genetic legacy, population structure and phylogenetic relationship of northern-Han Chinese via various analyses. Our population genetic results from five different reference datasets indicated that Shanxi Han shares a closer phylogenetic relationship with northern-neighbors and southern ethnically close groups than with Uyghur and Tibetan. Genome-wide variations revealed that modern northern-Han derived their ancestry from Yakut-related population (25.2%) and She-related population (74.8%). Summarily, the genetic mixing that led to the emergence of a Han Chinese ethnicity occurred at a very early period, probably in Neolithic times, and this mixing involved an ancient Tibeto-Burman population and a local pre-Sinitic population, which may have been linguistically Altaic.

RevDate: 2019-11-28

Översti S, Majander K, Salmela E, et al (2019)

Human mitochondrial DNA lineages in Iron-Age Fennoscandia suggest incipient admixture and eastern introduction of farming-related maternal ancestry.

Scientific reports, 9(1):16883.

Human ancient DNA studies have revealed high mobility in Europe's past, and have helped to decode the human history on the Eurasian continent. Northeastern Europe, especially north of the Baltic Sea, however, remains less well understood largely due to the lack of preserved human remains. Finland, with a divergent population history from most of Europe, offers a unique perspective to hunter-gatherer way of life, but thus far genetic information on prehistoric human groups in Finland is nearly absent. Here we report 103 complete ancient mitochondrial genomes from human remains dated to AD 300-1800, and explore mtDNA diversity associated with hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers. The results indicate largely unadmixed mtDNA pools of differing ancestries from Iron-Age on, suggesting a rather late genetic shift from hunter-gatherers towards farmers in North-East Europe. Furthermore, the data suggest eastern introduction of farmer-related haplogroups into Finland, contradicting contemporary genetic patterns in Finns.

RevDate: 2019-11-26

Wasef S, Subramanian S, O'Rorke R, et al (2019)

Mitogenomic diversity in Sacred Ibis Mummies sheds light on early Egyptian practices.

PloS one, 14(11):e0223964.

The ancient catacombs of Egypt harbor millions of well-preserved mummified Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) dating from ~600BC. Although it is known that a very large number of these 'votive' mummies were sacrificed to the Egyptian God Thoth, how the ancient Egyptians obtained millions of these birds for mummification remains unresolved. Ancient Egyptian textual evidences suggest they may have been raised in dedicated large-scale farms. To investigate the most likely method used by the priests to secure birds for mummification, we report the first study of complete mitochondrial genomes of 14 Sacred Ibis mummies interred ~2500 years ago. We analysed and compared the mitogenomic diversity among Sacred Ibis mummies to that found in modern Sacred Ibis populations from throughout Africa. The ancient birds show a high level of genetic variation comparable to that identified in modern African populations, contrary to the suggestion in ancient hieroglyphics (or ancient writings) of centralized industrial scale farming of sacrificial birds. This suggests a sustained short-term taming of the wild migratory Sacred Ibis for the ritual yearly demand.

RevDate: 2019-11-15

Swift JA, Bunce M, Dortch J, et al (2019)

Micro Methods for Megafauna: Novel Approaches to Late Quaternary Extinctions and Their Contributions to Faunal Conservation in the Anthropocene.

Bioscience, 69(11):877-887.

Drivers of Late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions are relevant to modern conservation policy in a world of growing human population density, climate change, and faunal decline. Traditional debates tend toward global solutions, blaming either dramatic climate change or dispersals of Homo sapiens to new regions. Inherent limitations to archaeological and paleontological data sets often require reliance on scant, poorly resolved lines of evidence. However, recent developments in scientific technologies allow for more local, context-specific approaches. In the present article, we highlight how developments in five such methodologies (radiocarbon approaches, stable isotope analysis, ancient DNA, ancient proteomics, microscopy) have helped drive detailed analysis of specific megafaunal species, their particular ecological settings, and responses to new competitors or predators, climate change, and other external phenomena. The detailed case studies of faunal community composition, extinction chronologies, and demographic trends enabled by these methods examine megafaunal extinctions at scales appropriate for practical understanding of threats against particular species in their habitats today.

RevDate: 2019-12-03
CmpDate: 2019-12-02

González-Oliver A, Pineda-Vázquez D, Garfias-Morales E, et al (2018)

Genetic Overview of the Maya Populations: Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups.

Human biology, 90(4):281-300.

We identified mitochondrial DNA haplogroups A, B, C, and D in 75 present-day Maya individuals, 24 Maya individuals of the colonial period, and 1 pre-Columbian Maya individual from Quintana Roo, Mexico. We examined these data together with those of 21 Maya populations reported in the literature, comprising 647 present-day Maya individuals and 71 ancient Maya individuals. A demographic study based on analysis of fertility and endogamy was carried out in two modern Maya populations to identify cultural factors that influence the mitochondrial haplogroup genetic diversity. Most present-day and ancient Maya populations show a distribution pattern of mitochondrial haplogroup frequencies A, C, B, and D in decreasing order, with haplogroup D absent in several populations. Considering only modern Maya populations with at least 50 individuals analyzed, the present-day Tzotzil and Lacandon populations from Chiapas show the highest and lowest genetic diversity, 0.706 and 0.025, respectively. Our results show small genetic differences between the Maya populations, with the exception of the present-day Tojolabal and Lacandon populations from Chiapas. The present-day Lacandon population from Chiapas differs from other Maya populations in showing almost only haplogroup A. This result suggests a long history of isolation and endogamy as well as a possible founder effect inside the Lacandonian rain forest. The contemporary Tojolabal population is the only one with an unusual mitochondrial haplogroup pattern, exhibiting a frequency of haplogroup B higher than A and the absence of haplogroup C. With a small sample size, the pre-Columbian Copán Maya show a high content of haplogroup C and a low frequency of haplogroup D. The genetic homogeneity of the Maya populations is indicative of a common origin and nearly continuous gene flow in the long term within a general isolation of the whole group, in contrast to the Nahua populations that had different origins. Our demographic study showed high fertility rates and high levels of endogamy in the present-day Maya populations from Quintana Roo that are consistent with their general low genetic diversity. We propose that the genetic similarity among ancient and present-day Maya populations persists due to a strong sense of social cohesion and identity that impacts their marriage practices, keeping this cultural group isolated. These factors have constrained gene flow inside the Maya region and have impeded the differentiation among the Maya. Discernment of genetic differentiation within the peninsula is constrained by the lack of sampling documentation in the literature.

RevDate: 2019-11-11

Nieves-Colón MA, Pestle WJ, Reynolds AW, et al (2019)

Ancient DNA reconstructs the genetic legacies of pre-contact Puerto Rico communities.

Molecular biology and evolution pii:5618728 [Epub ahead of print].

Indigenous peoples have occupied the island of Puerto Rico since at least 3000 B.C. Due to the demographic shifts that occurred after European contact, the origin(s) of these ancient populations, and their genetic relationship to present-day islanders, are unclear. We use ancient DNA to characterize the population history and genetic legacies of pre-contact Indigenous communities from Puerto Rico. Bone, tooth and dental calculus samples were collected from 124 individuals from three pre-contact archaeological sites: Tibes, Punta Candelero and Paso del Indio. Despite poor DNA preservation, we used target enrichment and high-throughput sequencing to obtain complete mitochondrial genomes (mtDNA) from 45 individuals and autosomal genotypes from two individuals. We found a high proportion of Native American mtDNA haplogroups A2 and C1 in the pre-contact Puerto Rico sample (40% and 44%, respectively). This distribution, as well as the haplotypes represented, support a primarily Amazonian South American origin for these populations, and mirrors the Native American mtDNA diversity patterns found in present-day islanders. Three mtDNA haplotypes from pre-contact Puerto Rico persist among Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean islanders, indicating that present-day populations are reservoirs of pre-contact mtDNA diversity. Lastly, we find similarity in autosomal ancestry patterns between pre-contact individuals from Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, suggesting a shared component of Indigenous Caribbean ancestry with close affinity to South American populations. Our findings contribute to a more complete reconstruction of pre-contact Caribbean population history and explore the role of Indigenous peoples in shaping the biocultural diversity of present-day Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean islanders.

RevDate: 2019-12-01

Liddicoat C, Sydnor H, Cando-Dumancela C, et al (2020)

Naturally-diverse airborne environmental microbial exposures modulate the gut microbiome and may provide anxiolytic benefits in mice.

The Science of the total environment, 701:134684.

Growing epidemiological evidence links natural green space exposure with a range of health benefits, including for mental health. Conversely, greater urbanisation associates with increased risk of mental health disorders. Microbiomes are proposed as an important but understudied link that may help explain many green space-human health associations. However, there remains a lack of controlled experimental evidence testing possible beneficial effects from passive exposure to natural biodiversity via airborne microbiota. Previous mouse model studies have used unrealistic environmental microbial exposures-including excessive soil and organic matter contact, feed supplements and injections-to demonstrate host microbiota, immune biomarker, and behavioural changes. Here, in a randomised controlled experiment, we demonstrate that realistic exposures to trace-level dust from a high biodiversity soil can change mouse gut microbiota, in comparison to dust from low biodiversity soil or no soil (control) (n = 54 total mice, comprising 3 treatments × 18 mice, with 9 females + 9 males per group). Furthermore, we found a nominal soil-derived anaerobic spore-forming butyrate-producer, Kineothrix alysoides, was supplemented to a greater extent in the gut microbiomes of high biodiversity treatment mice. Also, increasing relative abundance of this rare organism correlated with reduced anxiety-like behaviour in the most anxious mice. Our results point to an intriguing new hypothesis: that biodiverse soils may represent an important supplementary source of butyrate-producing bacteria capable of resupplying the mammalian gut microbiome, with potential for gut health and mental health benefits. Our findings have potential to inform cost-effective population health interventions through microbiome-conscious green space design and, ultimately, the mainstreaming of biodiversity into health care.

RevDate: 2019-12-05

Wolinsky H (2019)

Ancient DNA and contemporary politics: The analysis of ancient DNA challenges long-held beliefs about identity and history with potential for political abuse.

EMBO reports, 20(12):e49507.

The sequencing and analysis of ancient human DNA has helped to rewrite human history. But it is also tempting politicians, nationalists and supremacists to abuse this research for their agendas.

RevDate: 2019-11-19

Serra-Vidal G, Lucas-Sanchez M, Fadhlaoui-Zid K, et al (2019)

Heterogeneity in Palaeolithic Population Continuity and Neolithic Expansion in North Africa.

Current biology : CB, 29(22):3953-3959.e4.

North Africa is located at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, and the Sahara Desert. Extensive migrations and gene flow in the region have shaped many different cultures and ancestral genetic components through time [1-6]. DNA data from ancient Moroccan sites [7, 8] has recently shed some light to the population continuity-versus-replacement debate, i.e., the question of whether current North African populations descend from Palaeolithic groups or, on the contrary, subsequent migrations swept away all pre-existing genetic signal in the region. In the present study, we analyze 21 complete North African genomes and compare them with extant and ancient genome data in order to address the demographic continuity-versus-replacement debate, to assess whether these demographic events were homogeneous (including Berber and Arabic-speaking groups), and to explore the effect of Neolithization and posterior migration waves. The North African genetic pool is defined as a melting pot of genetic components, including an endemic North African Epipalaeolithic component at low frequency that forms a declining gradient from Western to Eastern North Africa. This scenario is consistent with Neolithization having shaped most of the current genetic variation in the region when compared to posterior back-to-North-Africa migration waves such as the Arabization. A common and distinct genetic history of the region is shown, with internal different proportions of genetic components owing to differential admixture with surrounding groups as well as to genetic drift due to isolation and endogamy in certain populations.

RevDate: 2019-11-27

Larsson P, von Seth J, Hagen IJ, et al (2019)

Consequences of past climate change and recent human persecution on mitogenomic diversity in the arctic fox.

Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 374(1788):20190212.

Ancient DNA provides a powerful means to investigate the timing, rate and extent of population declines caused by extrinsic factors, such as past climate change and human activities. One species probably affected by both these factors is the arctic fox, which had a large distribution during the last glaciation that subsequently contracted at the start of the Holocene. More recently, the arctic fox population in Scandinavia went through a demographic bottleneck owing to human persecution. To investigate the consequences of these processes, we generated mitogenome sequences from a temporal dataset comprising Pleistocene, historical and modern arctic fox samples. We found no evidence that Pleistocene populations in mid-latitude Europe or Russia contributed to the present-day gene pool of the Scandinavian population, suggesting that postglacial climate warming led to local population extinctions. Furthermore, during the twentieth-century bottleneck in Scandinavia, at least half of the mitogenome haplotypes were lost, consistent with a 20-fold reduction in female effective population size. In conclusion, these results suggest that the arctic fox in mainland Western Europe has lost genetic diversity as a result of both past climate change and human persecution. Consequently, it might be particularly vulnerable to the future challenges posed by climate change. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'The past is a foreign country: how much can the fossil record actually inform conservation?'

RevDate: 2019-12-04

Gaget V, Hobson P, Keulen A, et al (2019)

Toolbox for the sampling and monitoring of benthic cyanobacteria.

Water research, 169:115222 pii:S0043-1354(19)30996-0 [Epub ahead of print].

Benthic cyanobacteria are a nuisance because they produce highly potent toxins and taste and odour compounds. Despite this, benthic cyanobacteria remain far less studied than their planktonic counterparts. For example, little is known about their growth or the seasonality of their secondary metabolite production. Moreover, sampling and monitoring techniques commonly used for the survey of planktonic species are not necessarily applicable to benthic forms. This study aimed to develop and validate a new sampling device for the routine monitoring of benthic mats. Molecular monitoring techniques were established and validated on environmental samples collected in a South Australian reservoir (SA-L2). A total of eight qPCR assays were applied to samples in order to track seasonal variations in cyanobacteria concentrations and associated secondary metabolite production. Next Generation Sequencing was utilised to conduct a microbial community composition analysis and to select the most appropriate substrate material for the sampling of benthic cyanobacteria. The concentration of the secondary metabolites geosmin and 2-methyl-isoborneol were quantified using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography, and concentrations of key nutrients (N, P) were quantified in water samples. The sampling device designed proved efficient and easy to use in the field. The qPCR assay designed for the amplification of the cyanobacterial MIB synthase had a high efficiency with a minimum limit of quantification of 4 cell-equivalents per reaction and identified a potential source of MIB in SA-L2 Reservoir. The peak season for benthic growth and secondary metabolite production was observed in spring. Proportionally, 35% of the variability in water geosmin concentrations can be explained by benthic actinobacterial and cyanobacterial activity, showing that freshwater benthic mats represent a significant source of taste and odour compounds.

RevDate: 2019-10-27

Poma A, Cesare P, Bonfigli A, et al (2019)

Analysis of ancient mtDNA from the medieval archeological site of Amiternum (L'Aquila), central Italy.

Heliyon, 5(10):e02586.

Study of ancient DNA makes it possible to analyze genetic relationships between individuals and populations of past and present. In this paper we have analyzed remains of human bones, dating back to the 8th-10th century AD, from the burials found in the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Civitate, archaeological site of Amiternum, L'Aquila, Italy. As a genetic marker, the hypervariable region 1 of mitochondrial DNA (HVR1) was selected. To obtain reliable sequences from the hypervariable region 1 of mtDNA (HVR1) were performed: multiple extractions, template quantification and cloning of PCR products. The sequences obtained were compared with Anderson's sequence for the identification of polymorphisms (SNP) and haplogroups. The data obtained were analyzed with various software and phylogenetic methods. For the comparison between populations, ancient and modern sequences found in databases and literature have been used. This work provides preliminary information on the correlation between the population of Amiternum, the migrant populations transited and/or established in the territory of Amiternum such as Byzantines, Longobards (Lombards), which dominated the Italian peninsula between 568 and 774 AD, and the current populations of Italy. The study of haplogroups, the analysis of genetic variability and phylogenesis studies on the sequences considered show a genetic closeness between the individuals of Amiternum, the current population of central-northern Italy and the Germanic tribe of Longobards, however, also highlights genetic traits of Byzantines in some samples of Amiternum. Using the analysis of amelogenin gene fragments, we successfully determined the sex of the bone remains on all samples.

RevDate: 2019-10-22

Liu Y, Weyrich LS, B Llamas (2019)

More arrows in the ancient DNA quiver: use of paleoepigenomes and paleomicrobiomes to investigate animal adaptation to environment.

Molecular biology and evolution pii:5602326 [Epub ahead of print].

Whether and how epigenetic mechanisms and the microbiome play a role in mammalian adaptation raised considerable attention and controversy, mainly because they have the potential to add new insights into the Modern Synthesis. Recent attempts to reconcile neo-Darwinism and neo-Lamarckism in a unified theory of molecular evolution give epigenetic mechanisms and microbiome a prominent role. However, supporting empirical data is still largely missing. Because experimental studies using extant animals can hardly be done over evolutionary timescales, we propose that advances in ancient DNA techniques provide a valid alternative. In this piece, we evaluate: (1) the possible roles of epigenomes and microbiomes in animal adaptation; (2) advances in the retrieval of paleoepigenome and paleomicrobiome data using ancient DNA techniques; and (3) the plasticity of either and interactions between the epigenome and the microbiome, while emphasising that it is essential to take both into account, as well as the underlying genetic factors that may confound the findings. We propose that advanced ancient DNA techniques should be applied to a wide range of past animals, so novel dynamics in animal evolution and adaption can be revealed.

RevDate: 2019-10-18

Raghavan M, Schroeder H, AS Malaspinas (2019)

An Ancient Genome from the Indus Valley Civilization.

Cell, 179(3):586-588.

Shinde et al. report the first genome-wide data from an ancient individual from the Indus Valley Civilization in South Asia. Their findings have implications for the origins and spread of farming and Indo-European languages in the region and the makings of the South Asian gene pool.

RevDate: 2019-10-23

Shamoon-Pour M, Li M, DA Merriwether (2019)

Rare human mitochondrial HV lineages spread from the Near East and Caucasus during post-LGM and Neolithic expansions.

Scientific reports, 9(1):14751.

Of particular significance to human population history in Eurasia are the migratory events that connected the Near East to Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Utilizing 315 HV*(xH,V) mitogenomes, including 27 contemporary lineages first reported here, we found the genetic signatures for distinctive movements out of the Near East and South Caucasus both westward into Europe and eastward into South Asia. The parallel phylogeographies of rare, yet widely distributed HV*(xH,V) subclades reveal a connection between the Italian Peninsula and South Caucasus, resulting from at least two (post-LGM, Neolithic) waves of migration. Many of these subclades originated in a population ancestral to contemporary Armenians and Assyrians. One such subclade, HV1b-152, supports a postexilic, northern Mesopotamian origin for the Ashkenazi HV1b2 lineages. In agreement with ancient DNA findings, our phylogenetic analysis of HV12 and HV14, the two exclusively Asian subclades of HV*(xH,V), point to the migration of lineages originating in Iran to South Asia before and during the Neolithic period. With HV12 being one of the oldest HV subclades, our results support an origin of HV haplogroup in the region defined by Western Iran, Mesopotamia, and the South Caucasus, where the highest prevalence of HV has been found.

RevDate: 2019-10-15

Guitor AK, Raphenya AR, Klunk J, et al (2019)

Capturing the Resistome: A targeted capture method to reveal antibiotic resistance determinants in metagenomes.

Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy pii:AAC.01324-19 [Epub ahead of print].

The identification and association of the nucleotide sequences encoding antibiotic resistance elements is critical to improve surveillance and monitor trends in antibiotic resistance. Current methods to study antibiotic resistance in various environments rely on extensive deep sequencing or laborious culturing of fastidious organisms, which are both heavily time-consuming operations. An accurate and sensitive method to identify both rare and common resistance elements in complex metagenomic samples is needed. Referencing the Comprehensive Antibiotic Resistance Database, we designed a set of 37,826 probes to specifically target over 2000 nucleotide sequences associated with antibiotic resistance in clinically relevant bacteria. Testing of this probeset on DNA libraries generated from multi-drug resistant bacteria to selectively capture resistance genes reproducibly produced higher reads on-target at greater length of coverage when compared to shotgun sequencing. We also identified additional resistance gene sequences from human gut microbiome samples that sequencing alone was not able to detect. Our method to capture the resistome enables sensitive gene detection in diverse environments where antibiotic resistance represents less than 0.1% of the metagenome.

RevDate: 2019-11-22

Tett A, Huang KD, Asnicar F, et al (2019)

The Prevotella copri Complex Comprises Four Distinct Clades Underrepresented in Westernized Populations.

Cell host & microbe, 26(5):666-679.e7.

Prevotella copri is a common human gut microbe that has been both positively and negatively associated with host health. In a cross-continent meta-analysis exploiting >6,500 metagenomes, we obtained >1,000 genomes and explored the genetic and population structure of P. copri. P. copri encompasses four distinct clades (>10% inter-clade genetic divergence) that we propose constitute the P. copri complex, and all clades were confirmed by isolate sequencing. These clades are nearly ubiquitous and co-present in non-Westernized populations. Genomic analysis showed substantial functional diversity in the complex with notable differences in carbohydrate metabolism, suggesting that multi-generational dietary modifications may be driving reduced prevalence in Westernized populations. Analysis of ancient metagenomes highlighted patterns of P. copri presence consistent with modern non-Westernized populations and a clade delineation time pre-dating human migratory waves out of Africa. These findings reveal that P. copri exhibits a high diversity that is underrepresented in Western-lifestyle populations.

RevDate: 2019-11-28
CmpDate: 2019-11-28

Crump SE, Miller GH, Power M, et al (2019)

Arctic shrub colonization lagged peak postglacial warmth: Molecular evidence in lake sediment from Arctic Canada.

Global change biology, 25(12):4244-4256.

Arctic shrubification is an observable consequence of climate change, already resulting in ecological shifts and global-scale climate feedbacks including changes in land surface albedo and enhanced evapotranspiration. However, the rate at which shrubs can colonize previously glaciated terrain in a warming world is largely unknown. Reconstructions of past vegetation dynamics in conjunction with climate records can provide critical insights into shrubification rates and controls on plant migration, but paleoenvironmental reconstructions based on pollen may be biased by the influx of exotic pollen to tundra settings. Here, we reconstruct past plant communities using sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA), which has a more local source area than pollen. We additionally reconstruct past temperature variability using bacterial cell membrane lipids (branched glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers) and an aquatic productivity indicator (biogenic silica) to evaluate the relative timing of postglacial ecological and climate changes at a lake on southern Baffin Island, Arctic Canada. The sedaDNA record tightly constrains the colonization of dwarf birch (Betula, a thermophilous shrub) to 5.9 ± 0.1 ka, ~3 ka after local deglaciation as determined by cosmogenic 10 Be moraine dating and >2 ka later than Betula pollen is recorded in nearby lake sediment. We then assess the paleovegetation history within the context of summer temperature and find that paleotemperatures were highest prior to 6.3 ka, followed by cooling in the centuries preceding Betula establishment. Together, these molecular proxies reveal that Betula colonization lagged peak summer temperatures, suggesting that inefficient dispersal, rather than climate, may have limited Arctic shrub migration in this region. In addition, these data suggest that pollen-based climate reconstructions from high latitudes, which rely heavily on the presence and abundance of pollen from thermophilous taxa like Betula, can be compromised by both exotic pollen fluxes and vegetation migration lags.

RevDate: 2019-11-01

Cox SL, Ruff CB, Maier RM, et al (2019)

Genetic contributions to variation in human stature in prehistoric Europe.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(43):21484-21492.

The relative contributions of genetics and environment to temporal and geographic variation in human height remain largely unknown. Ancient DNA has identified changes in genetic ancestry over time, but it is not clear whether those changes in ancestry are associated with changes in height. Here, we directly test whether changes over the past 38,000 y in European height predicted using DNA from 1,071 ancient individuals are consistent with changes observed in 1,159 skeletal remains from comparable populations. We show that the observed decrease in height between the Early Upper Paleolithic and the Mesolithic is qualitatively predicted by genetics. Similarly, both skeletal and genetic height remained constant between the Mesolithic and Neolithic and increased between the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Sitting height changes much less than standing height-consistent with genetic predictions-although genetics predicts a small post-Neolithic increase that is not observed in skeletal remains. Geographic variation in stature is also qualitatively consistent with genetic predictions, particularly with respect to latitude. Finally, we hypothesize that an observed decrease in genetic heel bone mineral density in the Neolithic reflects adaptation to the decreased mobility indicated by decreased femoral bending strength. This study provides a model for interpreting phenotypic changes predicted from ancient DNA and demonstrates how they can be combined with phenotypic measurements to understand the relative contribution of genetic and developmentally plastic responses to environmental change.

RevDate: 2019-10-23

Malmström H, Günther T, Svensson EM, et al (2019)

The genomic ancestry of the Scandinavian Battle Axe Culture people and their relation to the broader Corded Ware horizon.

Proceedings. Biological sciences, 286(1912):20191528.

The Neolithic period is characterized by major cultural transformations and human migrations, with lasting effects across Europe. To understand the population dynamics in Neolithic Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea area, we investigate the genomes of individuals associated with the Battle Axe Culture (BAC), a Middle Neolithic complex in Scandinavia resembling the continental Corded Ware Culture (CWC). We sequenced 11 individuals (dated to 3330-1665 calibrated before common era (cal BCE)) from modern-day Sweden, Estonia, and Poland to 0.26-3.24× coverage. Three of the individuals were from CWC contexts and two from the central-Swedish BAC burial 'Bergsgraven'. By analysing these genomes together with the previously published data, we show that the BAC represents a group different from other Neolithic populations in Scandinavia, revealing stratification among cultural groups. Similar to continental CWC, the BAC-associated individuals display ancestry from the Pontic-Caspian steppe herders, as well as smaller components originating from hunter-gatherers and Early Neolithic farmers. Thus, the steppe ancestry seen in these Scandinavian BAC individuals can be explained only by migration into Scandinavia. Furthermore, we highlight the reuse of megalithic tombs of the earlier Funnel Beaker Culture (FBC) by people related to BAC. The BAC groups likely mixed with resident middle Neolithic farmers (e.g. FBC) without substantial contributions from Neolithic foragers.

RevDate: 2019-10-08

Fiumi Sermattei I, Traversari M, Serventi P, et al (2019)

Pope Leo XII's death: the twist to a longstanding dispute by novel historical documents and paleopathographic analysis.

Homo : internationale Zeitschrift fur die vergleichende Forschung am Menschen [Epub ahead of print].

Although the practice of autopsy on the Pope's corpse was performed from the 16th century, autopsy reports are only rarely analysed, and never with the aim of investigating the real causes of the death from a concomitant medical and historical point of view. Here, for the first time, we report on the discovery of new unpublished documents from the Vatican Secret Archives and their investigation by a scientific and inter-disciplinary approach. This analysis allows us to draw new conclusions on the true cause of Leo XII's mysterious death. His sudden death, that occurred on February 10th, 1829 after a short illness, particularly struck the public. Suspicions of poisoning or surgeon's guilt or inexperience and even the shadow of a venereal disease, contributed to create a "black legend" on his pontificate and death. On the contrary, the present paleopathographic analysis points toward a new conclusion. The regular use of catheterization with a silver syringe provided an easy access for bacterial superinfection, confirmed by the observed early emphysematous stage of the corpse. So, the most substantiated hypothesis concerning the cause of Leo XII's death indicates a severe form of sepsis, exacerbated by a weakened state due to chronic hemorrhoids.

RevDate: 2019-10-07

Kowal E, B Llamas (2019)

Race in a genome: long read sequencing, ethnicity-specific reference genomes and the shifting horizon of race.

Journal of anthropological sciences = Rivista di antropologia : JASS, 97: [Epub ahead of print].

The sequencing of the human genome at the turn of the 21st century was hailed as revealing the overwhelming genetic similarity of human groups. Scholars of genomics have critiqued the subsequent persistence of race-based genetic science, but were reassured that the wide availability of gene sequencing would end the use of race as a proxy for genetic difference. Once an individual's whole gene sequence could be read, they hoped, their ethnoracial classification would become redundant. At the same time, genome science was recognising that the differences between human genomes went beyond the genome sequence to the structure of the genome itself. 'Structural variation' between genomes, including insertions, deletions, translocations, inversions, and copy number variations, mean that the 'universal' reference genome used for genome sequencing is not so universal. As conventional, 'short-read' sequencing wrongly assumes that all genomes have the same structure, significant genetic variation can be missed. This paper examines the twin phenomena that have been posed as a solution to the biases of short-read sequencing: 'long-read' sequencing and 'ethnicity-specific reference genomes'. Long-read sequencing is a method of generating a genome sequence that can be assembled de novo rather than relying on the reference genome. In recent years, a number of countries including China, Korea, and Denmark have used long-read sequencing and de novo assembly to develop 'national' reference genomes. Our analysis of one ethnicity-specific reference genome project, the Korean Reference Genome (KOREF), finds that it unduly emphasises the importance of population structural variation, framed in nationalist terms, and discounts the importance of individual structural variation. We argue that the intellectual labour required to make a Korean reference genome a coherent concept works to extend the horizon of race, prolonging the temporality of the 'meantime' in which race remains a seemingly valid concept in genomic science.

RevDate: 2019-10-23

Robson HK, Skipitytė R, Piličiauskienė G, et al (2019)

Diet, cuisine and consumption practices of the first farmers in the southeastern Baltic.

Archaeological and anthropological sciences, 11(8):4011-4024.

With the arrival of the Early Neolithic Globular Amphora and Corded Ware cultures into the southeastern Baltic, ca. 2900/2800-2400 cal BC, a new type of economy was introduced, animal husbandry. However, the degree to which this transformed the subsistence economy is unknown. Here, we conducted organic residue analyses of 64 ceramic vessels to identify their contents. The vessels were sampled from 10 Lithuanian archaeological sites dating across the Subneolithic-Neolithic transition to the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2900/2800-1300 cal BC). Our results demonstrate that regardless of location or vessel type, many ceramics were used to process aquatic resources. Against our expectations, this association continued even after marked economic change concurrent with the migration of pastoralists from central and southeastern Europe, as evidenced by recent ancient DNA analysis of human remains. Moreover, we observed dairy fats in pottery from all cultures of the Early Neolithic (i.e. Rzucewo, Globular Amphora and Corded Ware) but unlike other regions of Europe, it seems that these were incorporated into indigenous culinary practices. Furthermore, some vessels were used to process plant foods, and others may have been used for the production and/or storage of birch bark tar. However, evidence for domesticated plant processing, for example millet, was absent. We show that organic residue analysis of pottery provides a different picture of past consumption patterns compared to the stable isotope analysis of human remains from isolated burials where a clear dietary shift is evident.

RevDate: 2019-12-02

Jones R, Velasco MS, Harris LG, et al (2019)

Resolving a clinical tuberculosis outbreak using palaeogenomic genome reconstruction methodologies.

Tuberculosis (Edinburgh, Scotland), 119:101865.

This study describes the analysis of DNA from heat-killed (boilate) isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from two UK outbreaks where DNA was of sub-optimal quality for the standard methodologies routinely used in microbial genomics. An Illumina library construction method developed for sequencing ancient DNA was successfully used to obtain whole genome sequences, allowing analysis of the outbreak by gene-by-gene MLST, SNP mapping and phylogenetic analysis. All cases were spoligotyped to the same Haarlem H1 sub-lineage. This is the first described application of ancient DNA library construction protocols to allow whole genome sequencing of a clinical tuberculosis outbreak. Using this method it is possible to obtain epidemiologically meaningful data even when DNA is of insufficient quality for standard methods.

RevDate: 2019-11-19

Yankova I, Marinov M, Neov B, et al (2019)

Evidence for Early European Neolithic Dog Dispersal: New Data on Southeastern European Subfossil Dogs from the Prehistoric and Antiquity Ages.

Genes, 10(10):.

The history of dog domestication is still under debate, but it is doubtless the process of an ancient partnership between dogs (Canis familiaris) and humans. Although data on ancient DNA for dog diversity are still incomplete, it is clear that several regional dog populations had formed in Eurasia up to the Holocene. During the Neolithic Revolution and the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer societies, followed by civilization changes in the Antiquity period, the dog population structure also changed. This process was due to replacement with newly formed dog populations. In this study, we present for the first time mitochondrial data of ancient dog remains from the Early Neolithic (8000 years before present (BP)) to Late Antiquity (up to 3th century AD) from southeastern Europe (the Balkans). A total of 16 samples were analyzed, using the mitochondrial D-loop region (HVR1). The results show the presence of A (70%) and B (25%) clades throughout the Early and Late Neolithic Period. In order to clarify the position of our results within the ancient dog population in Eneolithic Eurasia, we performed phylogenetic analysis with the available genetic data sets. This data showed a similarity of the ancient Bulgarian dogs to Italian (A, B, and C clades) and Iberian (clades A and C) dogs' populations. A clear border can be seen between southern European genetic dog structure, on the one hand, and on the other hand, central-western (clade C), eastern (clade D) and northern Europe (clades A and C). This corresponds to genetic data for European humans during the same period, without admixture between dog populations. Also, our data have shown the presence of clade B in ancient Eurasia. This is not unexpected, as the B haplogroup is widely distributed in extant Balkan dogs and wolves. The presence of this clade both in dogs and in wolves on the Balkans may be explained with hybridization events before the Neolithic period. The spreading of this clade across Europe, together with the A clade, is related to the possible dissemination of newly formed dog breeds from Ancient Greece, Thrace, and the Roman Empire.

RevDate: 2019-10-23

Morley MW, Goldberg P, Uliyanov VA, et al (2019)

Hominin and animal activities in the microstratigraphic record from Denisova Cave (Altai Mountains, Russia).

Scientific reports, 9(1):13785.

Denisova Cave in southern Siberia uniquely contains evidence of occupation by a recently discovered group of archaic hominins, the Denisovans, starting from the middle of the Middle Pleistocene. Artefacts, ancient DNA and a range of animal and plant remains have been recovered from the sedimentary deposits, along with a few fragmentary fossils of Denisovans, Neanderthals and a first-generation Neanderthal-Denisovan offspring. The deposits also contain microscopic traces of hominin and animal activities that can provide insights into the use of the cave over the last 300,000 years. Here we report the results of a micromorphological study of intact sediment blocks collected from the Pleistocene deposits in the Main and East Chambers of Denisova Cave. The presence of charcoal attests to the use of fire by hominins, but other evidence of their activities preserved in the microstratigraphic record are few. The ubiquitous occurrence of coprolites, which we attribute primarily to hyenas, indicates that the site was visited for much of its depositional history by cave-dwelling carnivores. Microscopic traces of post-depositional diagenesis, bioturbation and incipient cryoturbation are observed in only a few regions of the deposit examined here. Micromorphology can help identify areas of sedimentary deposit that are most conducive to ancient DNA preservation and could be usefully integrated with DNA analyses of sediments at archaeological sites to illuminate features of their human and environmental history that are invisible to the naked eye.

RevDate: 2019-09-27

Wang C, Lu H, Zhang J, et al (2019)

Bulliform Phytolith Size of Rice and Its Correlation With Hydrothermal Environment: A Preliminary Morphological Study on Species in Southern China.

Frontiers in plant science, 10:1037.

In the last decade, our understanding of rice domestication has improved by new archaeological findings using advanced analytical techniques such as morphological and morphometric analyses on rice grains, spikelet bases and phytoliths, and ancient DNA analysis on rice remains. Previous studies have considered the size of rice bulliform phytoliths as a proxy for tracking the domestication process. These phytoliths are often abundant and well preserved in sediments, and their shape is under the control of numerous genes, which may shift toward larger sizes by genetic mutation in domestication. Therefore, it has been assumed that the bulliforms of domesticated rice are usually larger than those of wild ones; however, morphometric data supporting this assumption are lacking in the literature, thereby requiring additional evidence to test its veracity. In this study, the vertical and horizonal lengths of bulliform phytoliths were measured in four rice species (domesticated Oryza sativa and wild Oryza rufipogon, Oryza officinalis, and Oryza meyeriana) from different regions of southern China. We found that the bulliform morphometric data of wild and domesticated rice overlapped and that there was no statistically significant difference between them. Therefore, bulliform size could not be used as a diagnostic indicator to distinguish domesticated rice from wild species and is a supporting rather than conclusive proxy for determining the domesticated status of rice in archaeological research. We further found that larger rice bulliform sizes likely occurred at the locations with higher temperature, precipitation, and water levels, indicating hydrothermal environment is an alternative factor influencing the size of rice bulliform phytoliths. For further archaeological use of an increasing size trend of bulliform phytoliths to reveal the process of rice domestication, we present some suggestions for controlling the influence of hydrothermal factors. Even so, the combination of bulliform phytolith size with other established criteria is strongly suggested to provide precise identification of wild and domesticated rice in future research.

RevDate: 2019-09-27

Chen SG, Li J, Zhang F, et al (2019)

Different maternal lineages revealed by ancient mitochondrial genome of Camelus bactrianus from China.

Mitochondrial DNA. Part A, DNA mapping, sequencing, and analysis, 30(7):786-793.

Domestic Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) used to be one of the most important livestock species in Chinese history, as well as the major transport carrier on the ancient Silk Road. However, archeological studies on Chinese C. bactrianus are still limited, and molecular biology research on this species is mainly focused on modern specimens. In this study, we retrieved the complete mitochondrial genome from a C. bactrianus specimen, which was excavated from northwestern China and dated at 1290-1180 cal. years before present (yBP). Phylogenetic analyses using 18 mitochondrial genomes indicated that the C. bactrianus clade was divided into two maternal lineages. The majority of samples originating from Iran to Japan and Mongolia belong to subclade A1, while our sample together with two Mongolian individuals formed the much smaller subclade A2. Furthermore, the divergence time of these two maternal lineages was estimated as 165 Kya (95% credibility interval 117-222 Kya), this might indicate that several different evolutionary lineages were incorporated into the domestic gene pool during the initial domestication process. Bayesian skyline plot (BSP) analysis suggest a slow increase in female effective population size of C. bactrianus from 5000 years ago, which corresponds to the beginning of domestication of C. bactrianus. The present study also revealed that there were extensive exchanges of genetic information among C. bactrianus populations in regions along the Silk Road.

RevDate: 2019-10-02

Tamm E, Cristofaro JD, Mazières S, et al (2019)

Genome-wide analysis of Corsican population reveals a close affinity with Northern and Central Italy.

Scientific reports, 9(1):13581 pii:10.1038/s41598-019-49901-8.

Despite being the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean basin, the genetic variation of Corsica has not been explored as exhaustively as Sardinia, which is situated only 11 km South. However, it is likely that the populations of the two islands shared, at least in part, similar demographic histories. Moreover, the relative small size of the Corsica may have caused genetic isolation, which, in turn, might be relevant under medical and translational perspectives. Here we analysed genome wide data of 16 Corsicans, and integrated with newly (33 individuals) and previously generated samples from West Eurasia and North Africa. Allele frequency, haplotype-based, and ancient genome analyses suggest that although Sardinia and Corsica may have witnessed similar isolation and migration events, the latter is genetically closer to populations from continental Europe, such as Northern and Central Italians.

RevDate: 2019-09-20

Ishiya K, Mizuno F, Wang L, et al (2019)

MitoIMP: A Computational Framework for Imputation of Missing Data in Low-Coverage Human Mitochondrial Genome.

Bioinformatics and biology insights, 13:1177932219873884 pii:10.1177_1177932219873884.

The incompleteness of partial human mitochondrial genome sequences makes it difficult to perform relevant comparisons among multiple resources. To deal with this issue, we propose a computational framework for deducing missing nucleotides in the human mitochondrial genome. We applied it to worldwide mitochondrial haplogroup lineages and assessed its performance. Our approach can deduce the missing nucleotides with a precision of 0.99 or higher in most human mitochondrial DNA lineages. Furthermore, although low-coverage mitochondrial genome sequences often lead to a blurred relationship in the multidimensional scaling analysis, our approach can correct this positional arrangement according to the corresponding mitochondrial DNA lineages. Therefore, our framework will provide a practical solution to compensate for the lack of genome coverage in partial and fragmented human mitochondrial genome sequences. In this study, we developed an open-source computer program, MitoIMP, implementing our imputation procedure. MitoIMP is freely available from https://github.com/omics-tools/mitoimp.

RevDate: 2019-09-15

Bennett EA, Crevecoeur I, Viola B, et al (2019)

Morphology of the Denisovan phalanx closer to modern humans than to Neanderthals.

Science advances, 5(9):eaaw3950 pii:aaw3950.

A fully sequenced high-quality genome has revealed in 2010 the existence of a human population in Asia, the Denisovans, related to and contemporaneous with Neanderthals. Only five skeletal remains are known from Denisovans, mostly molars; the proximal fragment of a fifth finger phalanx used to generate the genome, however, was too incomplete to yield useful morphological information. Here, we demonstrate through ancient DNA analysis that a distal fragment of a fifth finger phalanx from the Denisova Cave is the larger, missing part of this phalanx. Our morphometric analysis shows that its dimensions and shape are within the variability of Homo sapiens and distinct from the Neanderthal fifth finger phalanges. Thus, unlike Denisovan molars, which display archaic characteristics not found in modern humans, the only morphologically informative Denisovan postcranial bone identified to date is suggested here to be plesiomorphic and shared between Denisovans and modern humans.

RevDate: 2019-10-23

Menardo F, Duchêne S, Brites D, et al (2019)

The molecular clock of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

PLoS pathogens, 15(9):e1008067.

The molecular clock and its phylogenetic applications to genomic data have changed how we study and understand one of the major human pathogens, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), the etiologic agent of tuberculosis. Genome sequences of MTB strains sampled at different times are increasingly used to infer when a particular outbreak begun, when a drug-resistant clone appeared and expanded, or when a strain was introduced into a specific region. Despite the growing importance of the molecular clock in tuberculosis research, there is a lack of consensus as to whether MTB displays a clocklike behavior and about its rate of evolution. Here we performed a systematic study of the molecular clock of MTB on a large genomic data set (6,285 strains), covering different epidemiological settings and most of the known global diversity. We found that sampling times below 15-20 years were often insufficient to calibrate the clock of MTB. For data sets where such calibration was possible, we obtained a clock rate between 1x10-8 and 5x10-7 nucleotide changes per-site-per-year (0.04-2.2 SNPs per-genome-per-year), with substantial differences between clades. These estimates were not strongly dependent on the time of the calibration points as they changed only marginally when we used epidemiological isolates (sampled in the last 40 years) or three ancient DNA samples (about 1,000 years old) to calibrate the tree. Additionally, the uncertainty and the discrepancies in the results of different methods were sometimes large, highlighting the importance of using different methods, and of considering carefully their assumptions and limitations.

RevDate: 2019-11-12
CmpDate: 2019-11-12

Cappellini E, Welker F, Pandolfi L, et al (2019)

Early Pleistocene enamel proteome from Dmanisi resolves Stephanorhinus phylogeny.

Nature, 574(7776):103-107.

The sequencing of ancient DNA has enabled the reconstruction of speciation, migration and admixture events for extinct taxa1. However, the irreversible post-mortem degradation2 of ancient DNA has so far limited its recovery-outside permafrost areas-to specimens that are not older than approximately 0.5 million years (Myr)3. By contrast, tandem mass spectrometry has enabled the sequencing of approximately 1.5-Myr-old collagen type I4, and suggested the presence of protein residues in fossils of the Cretaceous period5-although with limited phylogenetic use6. In the absence of molecular evidence, the speciation of several extinct species of the Early and Middle Pleistocene epoch remains contentious. Here we address the phylogenetic relationships of the Eurasian Rhinocerotidae of the Pleistocene epoch7-9, using the proteome of dental enamel from a Stephanorhinus tooth that is approximately 1.77-Myr old, recovered from the archaeological site of Dmanisi (South Caucasus, Georgia)10. Molecular phylogenetic analyses place this Stephanorhinus as a sister group to the clade formed by the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) and Merck's rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis). We show that Coelodonta evolved from an early Stephanorhinus lineage, and that this latter genus includes at least two distinct evolutionary lines. The genus Stephanorhinus is therefore currently paraphyletic, and its systematic revision is needed. We demonstrate that sequencing the proteome of Early Pleistocene dental enamel overcomes the limitations of phylogenetic inference based on ancient collagen or DNA. Our approach also provides additional information about the sex and taxonomic assignment of other specimens from Dmanisi. Our findings reveal that proteomic investigation of ancient dental enamel-which is the hardest tissue in vertebrates11, and is highly abundant in the fossil record-can push the reconstruction of molecular evolution further back into the Early Pleistocene epoch, beyond the currently known limits of ancient DNA preservation.

RevDate: 2019-09-10

Moreno-Mayar JV, Korneliussen TS, Dalal J, et al (2019)

A likelihood method for estimating present-day human contamination in ancient male samples using low-depth X-chromosome data.

Bioinformatics (Oxford, England) pii:5554699 [Epub ahead of print].

MOTIVATION: The presence of present-day human contaminating DNA fragments is one of the challenges defining ancient DNA (aDNA) research. This is especially relevant to the ancient human DNA field where it is difficult to distinguish endogenous molecules from human contaminants due to their genetic similarity. Recently, with the advent of high-throughput sequencing and new aDNA protocols, hundreds of ancient human genomes have become available. Contamination in those genomes has been measured with computational methods often developed specifically for these empirical studies. Consequently, some of these methods have not been implemented and tested for general use while few are aimed at low-depth nuclear data, a common feature in aDNA datasets.

RESULTS: We develop a new X-chromosome-based maximum likelihood method for estimating present-day human contamination in low-depth sequencing data from male individuals. We implement our method for general use, assess its performance under conditions typical of ancient human DNA research, and compare it to previous nuclear data-based methods through extensive simulations. For low-depth data, we show that existing methods can produce unusable estimates or substantially underestimate contamination. In contrast, our method provides accurate estimates for a depth of coverage as low as 0.5× on the X-chromosome when contamination is below 25%. Moreover, our method still yields meaningful estimates in very challenging situations, i.e., when the contaminant and the target come from closely related populations or with increased error rates. With a running time below five minutes, our method is applicable to large scale aDNA genomic studies.

AVAILABILITY: The method is implemented in C++ and R and is available in github.com/sapfo/contaminationX and popgen.dk/angsd.

RevDate: 2019-10-23

Shinde V, Narasimhan VM, Rohland N, et al (2019)

An Ancient Harappan Genome Lacks Ancestry from Steppe Pastoralists or Iranian Farmers.

Cell, 179(3):729-735.e10.

We report an ancient genome from the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). The individual we sequenced fits as a mixture of people related to ancient Iranians (the largest component) and Southeast Asian hunter-gatherers, a unique profile that matches ancient DNA from 11 genetic outliers from sites in Iran and Turkmenistan in cultural communication with the IVC. These individuals had little if any Steppe pastoralist-derived ancestry, showing that it was not ubiquitous in northwest South Asia during the IVC as it is today. The Iranian-related ancestry in the IVC derives from a lineage leading to early Iranian farmers, herders, and hunter-gatherers before their ancestors separated, contradicting the hypothesis that the shared ancestry between early Iranians and South Asians reflects a large-scale spread of western Iranian farmers east. Instead, sampled ancient genomes from the Iranian plateau and IVC descend from different groups of hunter-gatherers who began farming without being connected by substantial movement of people.

RevDate: 2019-10-29

Littleford-Colquhoun BL, Weyrich LS, Kent N, et al (2019)

City life alters the gut microbiome and stable isotope profiling of the eastern water dragon (Intellagama lesueurii).

Molecular ecology, 28(20):4592-4607.

Urbanisation is one of the most significant threats to biodiversity, due to the rapid and large-scale environmental alterations it imposes on the natural landscape. It is, therefore, imperative that we understand the consequences of and mechanisms by which, species can respond to it. In recent years, research has shown that plasticity of the gut microbiome may be an important mechanism by which animals can adapt to environmental change, yet empirical evidence of this in wild non-model species remains sparse. Using an empirical replicated study system, we show that city life alters the gut microbiome and stable isotope profiling of a wild native non-model species - the eastern water dragon (Intellagama lesueurii) in Queensland, Australia. City dragons exhibit a more diverse gut microbiome than their native habitat counterparts and show gut microbial signatures of a high fat and plant rich diet. Additionally, we also show that city dragons have elevated levels of the Nitrogen-15 isotope in their blood suggesting that a city diet, which incorporates novel anthropogenic food sources, may also be richer in protein. These results highlight the role that gut microbial plasticity plays in an animals' response to human-altered landscapes.

RevDate: 2019-10-08

Balázs J, Rózsa Z, Bereczki Z, et al (2019)

Osteoarcheological and biomolecular evidence of leprosy from an 11-13th century CE Muslim cemetery in Europe (Orosháza, Southeast Hungary).

Homo : internationale Zeitschrift fur die vergleichende Forschung am Menschen, 70(2):105-118.

Orosháza site no. 10 (Southeast Hungary) contains the partially excavated archaeological remains of an 11-13th century CE Muslim merchant village and its cemetery located in close proximity to Christian villages of the same era. The skeleton of a young woman (grave no. 16) from the last phase of the cemetery use was identified with rhinomaxillary lesions associated with lepromatous leprosy. The right parietal bone also exhibited signs of cranial trauma, possibly caused by symbolic trepanation, a well-known ritual practice in the 9-11th century CE Carpathian Basin. The retrospective diagnosis of the disease was supported by ancient DNA analysis, as the samples were positive for Mycobacterium leprae aDNA, shown to be of genotype 3. Contrary to the general practice of the era, the body of the young female with severe signs of leprosy was interred among the regular graves of the Muslim cemetery in Orosháza, which may reflect the unique cultural background of the community.

RevDate: 2019-10-08

Gilbert E, O'Reilly S, Merrigan M, et al (2019)

The genetic landscape of Scotland and the Isles.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(38):19064-19070.

Britain and Ireland are known to show population genetic structure; however, large swathes of Scotland, in particular, have yet to be described. Delineating the structure and ancestry of these populations will allow variant discovery efforts to focus efficiently on areas not represented in existing cohorts. Thus, we assembled genotype data for 2,554 individuals from across the entire archipelago with geographically restricted ancestry, and performed population structure analyses and comparisons to ancient DNA. Extensive geographic structuring is revealed, from broad scales such as a NE to SW divide in mainland Scotland, through to the finest scale observed to date: across 3 km in the Northern Isles. Many genetic boundaries are consistent with Dark Age kingdoms of Gaels, Picts, Britons, and Norse. Populations in the Hebrides, the Highlands, Argyll, Donegal, and the Isle of Man show characteristics of isolation. We document a pole of Norwegian ancestry in the north of the archipelago (reaching 23 to 28% in Shetland) which complements previously described poles of Germanic ancestry in the east, and "Celtic" to the west. This modern genetic structure suggests a northwestern British or Irish source population for the ancient Gaels that contributed to the founding of Iceland. As rarer variants, often with larger effect sizes, become the focus of complex trait genetics, more diverse rural cohorts may be required to optimize discoveries in British and Irish populations and their considerable global diaspora.

RevDate: 2019-10-02

Gower G, Fenderson LE, Salis AT, et al (2019)

Widespread male sex bias in mammal fossil and museum collections.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(38):19019-19024.

A recent study of mammoth subfossil remains has demonstrated the potential of using relatively low-coverage high-throughput DNA sequencing to genetically sex specimens, revealing a strong male-biased sex ratio [P. Pečnerová et al., Curr. Biol. 27, 3505-3510.e3 (2017)]. Similar patterns were predicted for steppe bison, based on their analogous female herd-based structure. We genetically sexed subfossil remains of 186 Holarctic bison (Bison spp.), and also 91 brown bears (Ursus arctos), which are not female herd-based, and found that ∼75% of both groups were male, very close to the ratio observed in mammoths (72%). This large deviation from a 1:1 ratio was unexpected, but we found no evidence for sex differences with respect to DNA preservation, sample age, material type, or overall spatial distribution. We further examined ratios of male and female specimens from 4 large museum mammal collections and found a strong male bias, observable in almost all mammalian orders. We suggest that, in mammals at least, 1) wider male geographic ranges can lead to considerably increased chances of detection in fossil studies, and 2) sexual dimorphic behavior or appearance can facilitate a considerable sex bias in fossil and modern collections, on a previously unacknowledged scale. This finding has major implications for a wide range of studies of fossil and museum material.

RevDate: 2019-09-16

Hermes TR, Frachetti MD, Doumani Dupuy PN, et al (2019)

Early integration of pastoralism and millet cultivation in Bronze Age Eurasia.

Proceedings. Biological sciences, 286(1910):20191273.

Mobile pastoralists are thought to have facilitated the first trans-Eurasian dispersals of domesticated plants during the Early Bronze Age (ca 2500-2300 BC). Problematically, the earliest seeds of wheat, barley and millet in Inner Asia were recovered from human mortuary contexts and do not inform on local cultivation or subsistence use, while contemporaneous evidence for the use and management of domesticated livestock in the region remains ambiguous. We analysed mitochondrial DNA and multi-stable isotopic ratios (δ13C, δ15N and δ18O) of faunal remains from key pastoralist sites in the Dzhungar Mountains of southeastern Kazakhstan. At ca 2700 BC, Near Eastern domesticated sheep and goat were present at the settlement of Dali, which were also winter foddered with the region's earliest cultivated millet spreading from its centre of domestication in northern China. In the following centuries, millet cultivation and caprine management became increasingly intertwined at the nearby site of Begash. Cattle, on the other hand, received low levels of millet fodder at the sites for millennia. By primarily examining livestock dietary intake, this study reveals that the initial transmission of millet across the mountains of Inner Asia coincided with a substantial connection between pastoralism and plant cultivation, suggesting that pastoralist livestock herding was integral for the westward dispersal of millet from farming societies in China.

RevDate: 2019-09-01

Oosting T, Star B, Barrett JH, et al (2019)

Unlocking the potential of ancient fish DNA in the genomic era.

Evolutionary applications, 12(8):1513-1522 pii:EVA12811.

Fish are the most diverse group of vertebrates, fulfil important ecological functions and are of significant economic interest for aquaculture and wild fisheries. Advances in DNA extraction methods, sequencing technologies and bioinformatic applications have advanced genomic research for nonmodel organisms, allowing the field of fish ancient DNA (aDNA) to move into the genomics era. This move is enabling researchers to investigate a multitude of new questions in evolutionary ecology that could not, until now, be addressed. In many cases, these new fields of research have relevance to evolutionary applications, such as the sustainable management of fisheries resources and the conservation of aquatic animals. Here, we focus on the application of fish aDNA to (a) highlight new research questions, (b) outline methodological advances and current challenges, (c) discuss how our understanding of fish ecology and evolution can benefit from aDNA applications and (d) provide a future perspective on how the field will help answer key questions in conservation and management. We conclude that the power of fish aDNA will be unlocked through the application of continually improving genomic resources and methods to well-chosen taxonomic groups represented by well-dated archaeological samples that can provide temporally and/or spatially extensive data sets.

RevDate: 2019-08-28

Lewis D (2019)

'Paralysed by anxiety': researchers speak about life in troubled ancient-DNA lab.

Nature, 572(7771):571-572.

RevDate: 2019-10-07
CmpDate: 2019-10-03

Leles D, Frías L, Araújo A, et al (2019)

Are immunoenzymatic tests for intestinal protozoans reliable when used on archaeological material?.

Experimental parasitology, 205:107739.

Intestinal protozoans found in ancient human samples have been studied primarily by microscopy and immunodiagnostic assays. However, such methods are not suitable for the detection of zoonotic genotypes. The objectives of the present study were to utilize immunoenzimatic assays for coproantigen detection of Cryptosporidium sp., Giardia duodenalis, and Entamoeba histolytica/Entamoeba dispar in sixty ancient human and animal samples collected from 14 archaeological sites in South America, and to carry out a critical analysis of G. duodenalis according to results obtained from three diagnostic methodologies: microscopy, immunodiagnostic tests (immunoenzymatic and immunofluorescence), and molecular biology (PCR and sequencing). More than half (31/60) of the samples analyzed using immunoenzymatic tests were positive for at least one of the intestinal protozoans, with 46.6% (28/60) corresponding to G. duodenalis, 26.6% (16/60) to Cryptosporidium sp., and 5% (3/60) to E. histolytica/E. dispar. Cryptosporidium sp. and G. duodenalis coinfection was observed in 15% (9/60) of the samples, whereas all three protozoans were found in 5% (3/60) of samples. In the Northeast Region of Brazil, by immunoenzymatic tests there is evidence that G. duodenlais and Cryptosporidium sp. have infected humans and rodents for at least 7150 years. However, for G. duodenalis, the results from the three diagnostic tests were discordant. Specifically, despite the efficiency of the molecular biology assay in the experimental models, G. duodenalis DNA could not be amplified from the ancient samples. These results raise the following question: Are all ancient samples positive for coproantigen of G. duodenalis by immunoenzymatic tests truly positive? This scenario highlights the importance of further studies to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of the immunoenzymatic method in the archaeological context.

RevDate: 2019-09-05

Fernandes D, Sirak K, Cheronet O, et al (2019)

Cranial deformation and genetic diversity in three adolescent male individuals from the Great Migration Period from Osijek, eastern Croatia.

PloS one, 14(8):e0216366 pii:PONE-D-19-00982.

Three individuals dating to the Great Migration Period (5th century CE) were discovered in a pit at the Hermanov vinograd site in Osijek, Croatia. We were inspired to study these individuals based on their unusual burial context as well as the identification of two different types of artificial cranial deformation in two of the individuals. We combine bioarchaeological analysis with radiographic imaging, stable isotopes analysis, and ancient DNA to analyze their dietary patterns, molecular sex, and genetic affinities in the context of the archaeological data and their bioarchaeological attributes. While all three individuals were adolescent males with skeletal evidence of severe malnutrition and similar diets, the most striking observation is that they had major differences in their genetic ancestry. Results of the genetic analyses of the nuclear ancient DNA data for these individuals indicate that the individual without artificial cranial deformation shows broadly West Eurasian associated-ancestry, the individual with tabular oblique-type has East Asian ancestry and the third individual with circular erect-type has Near Eastern associated-ancestry. Based on these results, we speculate that artificial cranial deformation type may have been a visual indicator membership in a specific cultural group, and that these groups were interacting intimately on the Pannonian Plain during the Migration Period.

RevDate: 2019-08-21

Lewis D (2019)

Head of prestigious ancient-DNA lab suspended amid bullying allegations.

Nature, 572(7770):424-425.

RevDate: 2019-11-30

Harney É, Nayak A, Patterson N, et al (2019)

Ancient DNA from the skeletons of Roopkund Lake reveals Mediterranean migrants in India.

Nature communications, 10(1):3670 pii:10.1038/s41467-019-11357-9.

Situated at over 5,000 meters above sea level in the Himalayan Mountains, Roopkund Lake is home to the scattered skeletal remains of several hundred individuals of unknown origin. We report genome-wide ancient DNA for 38 skeletons from Roopkund Lake, and find that they cluster into three distinct groups. A group of 23 individuals have ancestry that falls within the range of variation of present-day South Asians. A further 14 have ancestry typical of the eastern Mediterranean. We also identify one individual with Southeast Asian-related ancestry. Radiocarbon dating indicates that these remains were not deposited simultaneously. Instead, all of the individuals with South Asian-related ancestry date to ~800 CE (but with evidence of being deposited in more than one event), while all other individuals date to ~1800 CE. These differences are also reflected in stable isotope measurements, which reveal a distinct dietary profile for the two main groups.

RevDate: 2019-11-26

Aris-Brosou S (2019)

Direct Evidence of an Increasing Mutational Load in Humans.

Molecular biology and evolution, 36(12):2823-2829.

The extent to which selection has shaped present-day human populations has attracted intense scrutiny, and examples of local adaptations abound. However, the evolutionary trajectory of alleles that, today, are deleterious has received much less attention. To address this question, the genomes of 2,062 individuals, including 1,179 ancient humans, were reanalyzed to assess how frequencies of risk alleles and their homozygosity changed through space and time in Europe over the past 45,000 years. Although the overall deleterious homozygosity has consistently decreased, risk alleles have steadily increased in frequency over that period of time. Those that increased most are associated with diseases such as asthma, Crohn disease, diabetes, and obesity, which are highly prevalent in present-day populations. These findings may not run against the existence of local adaptations but highlight the limitations imposed by drift and population dynamics on the strength of selection in purging deleterious mutations from human populations.

RevDate: 2019-11-15
CmpDate: 2019-11-15

Legrand B, Miras Y, Beauger A, et al (2019)

Akinetes and ancient DNA reveal toxic cyanobacterial recurrences and their potential for resurrection in a 6700-year-old core from a eutrophic lake.

The Science of the total environment, 687:1369-1380.

In order to evaluate the recurrence of toxic cyanobacterial blooms and to determine the survival capabilities of the resistance cells through time, a sedimentary core spanning 6700 years was drilled in the eutrophic Lake Aydat. A multiproxy approach (density, magnetic susceptibility, XRF, pollen and non-pollen palynomorph analyses), was used initially to determine the sedimentation model and the land uses around the lake. Comparison with the akinete count revealed that Nostocales cyanobacteria have been present in Lake Aydat over a six thousand year period. This long-term cyanobacterial recurrence also highlights the past presence of both the anaC and mcyB genes, involved in anatoxin-a and microcystin biosynthesis, respectively, throughout the core. The first appearance of cyanobacteria seems to be linked to the natural damming of the river, while the large increase in akinete density around 1800 cal.yr BP can be correlated with the intensification of human activities (woodland clearance, crop planting, grazing, etc.) in the catchment area of the lake, and marks the beginning of a long period of eutrophication. This first investigation into the viability and germination potential of cyanobacteria over thousands of years reveals the ability of intact akinetes to undergo cell divisions even after 1800 years of sedimentation, which is 10 times longer than previously observed. This exceptional cellular resistance, coupled with the long-term eutrophic conditions of this lake, could partly explain the past and current recurrences of cyanobacterial proliferations.

RevDate: 2019-10-07
CmpDate: 2019-10-04

Kornienko IV, Faleeva TG, Oreshkova NV, et al (2019)

[Structural and Functional Organization of the Mitochondrial DNA Control Region in the Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)].

Molekuliarnaia biologiia, 53(4):627-637.

The woolly mammoth mitochondrial genome (including the Malolyakhovsky mammoth) has been previously sequenced, followed by the annotation of all its genes (MF770243). In this study, based on the Malolyakhovsky mammoth, we describe for the first time the sites of functional significance in the control region of the woolly mammoth mitogenome.

RevDate: 2019-10-25
CmpDate: 2019-10-25

Das R (2019)

OnPeopling of India: Ancient DNA perspectives By K Thangaraj and Niraj Rai.

Journal of biosciences, 44(3):.

RevDate: 2019-08-08

Thangaraj K, N Rai (2019)

Peopling of India: Ancient DNA perspectives.

Journal of biosciences, 44(3):.

To reconstruct and explain patterns of genetic diversity of modern humans, understanding their past and present genetic profile is crucial. While genomes of contemporary people can provide information about present day population structure, analysis of ancient genomes may provide unprecedented insights about the past demographic events that have shaped the contemporary gene pool. Population genetics has recently witnessed an explosion in studies on ancient human population histories, primarily from Europe and America. South Asia has no representation in the ancient genomics literature, despite the wealth of archaeological richness in the form of human skeletal remains that exist in collections all over the country. Representing one-fifth of present day humanity calls for understanding the demographic history of south Asia not merely as a prerequisite but as an urgent need to understand its genetic variations on a global scale. Although the overall picture is taking form, new archaeological and genetic information from the region has started to reveal a more complex scenario of ancient human migrations and admixtures than was ever known before. In this article, we discuss a meaningful insight on the current status of ancient DNA (aDNA) research in India. We have also summarized a few but important aDNA studies, which have been successfully carried out in India. Furthermore, we have highlighted the potential opportunity of aDNA research in the Indian subcontinent.

RevDate: 2019-08-06

Valente L, Etienne RS, JC Garcia-R (2019)

Deep Macroevolutionary Impact of Humans on New Zealand's Unique Avifauna.

Current biology : CB, 29(15):2563-2569.e4.

Islands are at the frontline of the anthropogenic extinction crisis [1]. A vast number of island birds have gone extinct since human colonization [2], and an important proportion is currently threatened with extinction [3]. While the number of lost or threatened avian species has often been quantified [4], the macroevolutionary consequences of human impact on island biodiversity have rarely been measured [5]. Here, we estimate the amount of evolutionary time that has been lost or is under threat due to anthropogenic activity in a classic example, New Zealand. Half of its bird taxa have gone extinct since humans arrived [6, 7] and many are threatened [8], including lineages forming highly distinct branches in the avian tree of life [9-11]. Using paleontological and ancient DNA information, we compiled a dated phylogenetic dataset for New Zealand's terrestrial avifauna. We extend the method DAISIE developed for island biogeography [12] to allow for the fact that many of New Zealand's birds are evolutionarily isolated and use it to estimate natural rates of speciation, extinction, and colonization. Simulating under a range of human-induced extinction scenarios, we find that it would take approximately 50 million years (Ma) to recover the number of species lost since human colonization of New Zealand and up to 10 Ma to return to today's species numbers if currently threatened species go extinct. This study puts into macroevolutionary perspective the impact of humans in an isolated fauna and reveals how conservation decisions we take today will have repercussions for millions of years.

RevDate: 2019-09-24

Oswald JA, Allen JM, Witt KE, et al (2019)

Ancient DNA from a 2,500-year-old Caribbean fossil places an extinct bird (Caracara creightoni) in a phylogenetic context.

Molecular phylogenetics and evolution, 140:106576.

Since the late Pleistocene humans have caused the extinction of species across our planet. Placing these extinct species in the tree of life with genetic data is essential to understanding the ecological and evolutionary implications of these losses. While ancient DNA (aDNA) techniques have advanced rapidly in recent decades, aDNA from tropical species, especially birds, has been historically difficult to obtain, leaving a gap in our knowledge of the extinction processes that have influenced current distributions and biodiversity. Here we report the recovery of a nearly complete mitochondrial genome from a 2,500 year old (late Holocene) bone of an extinct species of bird, Caracara creightoni, recovered from the anoxic saltwater environment of a blue hole in the Bahamas. Our results suggest that this extinct species is sister (1.6% sequence divergence) to a clade containing the extant C. cheriway and C. plancus. Caracara creightoni shared a common ancestor with these extant species during the Pleistocene (1.2-0.4 MYA) and presumably survived on Cuba when the Bahamas was mostly underwater during Quaternary interglacial intervals (periods of high sea levels). Tropical blue holes have been collecting animals for thousands of years and will continue to improve our understanding of faunal extinctions and distributions. In particular, new aDNA techniques combined with radiocarbon dating from Holocene Bahamian fossils will allow us to place other extinct (species-level loss) and extirpated (population-level loss) vertebrate taxa in improved phylogenetic, evolutionary, biogeographic, and temporal contexts.

RevDate: 2019-08-08

Smith O, Dunshea G, Sinding MS, et al (2019)

Ancient RNA from Late Pleistocene permafrost and historical canids shows tissue-specific transcriptome survival.

PLoS biology, 17(7):e3000166 pii:PBIOLOGY-D-19-00243.

While sequencing ancient DNA (aDNA) from archaeological material is now commonplace, very few attempts to sequence ancient transcriptomes have been made, even from typically stable deposition environments such as permafrost. This is presumably due to assumptions that RNA completely degrades relatively quickly, particularly when dealing with autolytic, nuclease-rich mammalian tissues. However, given the recent successes in sequencing ancient RNA (aRNA) from various sources including plants and animals, we suspect that these assumptions may be incorrect or exaggerated. To challenge the underlying dogma, we generated shotgun RNA data from sources that might normally be dismissed for such study. Here, we present aRNA data generated from two historical wolf skins, and permafrost-preserved liver tissue of a 14,300-year-old Pleistocene canid. Not only is the latter the oldest RNA ever to be sequenced, but it also shows evidence of biologically relevant tissue specificity and close similarity to equivalent data derived from modern-day control tissue. Other hallmarks of RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data such as exon-exon junction presence and high endogenous ribosomal RNA (rRNA) content confirms our data's authenticity. By performing independent technical library replicates using two high-throughput sequencing platforms, we show not only that aRNA can survive for extended periods in mammalian tissues but also that it has potential for tissue identification. aRNA also has possible further potential, such as identifying in vivo genome activity and adaptation, when sequenced using this technology.

RevDate: 2019-08-06

Ning C, Wang CC, Gao S, et al (2019)

Ancient Genomes Reveal Yamnaya-Related Ancestry and a Potential Source of Indo-European Speakers in Iron Age Tianshan.

Current biology : CB, 29(15):2526-2532.e4.

Recent studies of early Bronze Age human genomes revealed a massive population expansion by individuals-related to the Yamnaya culture, from the Pontic Caspian steppe into Western and Eastern Eurasia, likely accompanied by the spread of Indo-European languages [1-5]. The south eastern extent of this migration is currently not known. Modern-day human populations from the Xinjiang region in northwestern China show a complex population history, with genetic links to both Eastern and Western Eurasia [6-10]. However, due to the lack of ancient genomic data, it remains unclear which source populations contributed to the Xinjiang population and what was the timing and the number of admixture events. Here, we report the first genome-wide data of 10 ancient individuals from northeastern Xinjiang. They are dated to around 2,200 years ago and were found at the Iron Age Shirenzigou site. We find them to be already genetically admixed between Eastern and Western Eurasians. We also find that the majority of the East Eurasian ancestry in the Shirenzigou individuals is-related to northeastern Asian populations, while the West Eurasian ancestry is best presented by ∼20% to 80% Yamnaya-like ancestry. Our data thus suggest a Western Eurasian steppe origin for at least part of the ancient Xinjiang population. Our findings furthermore support a Yamnaya-related origin for the now extinct Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin, in southern Xinjiang.

RevDate: 2019-08-22

Molto JE, Kirkpatrick CL, J Keron (2019)

The paleoepidemiology of Sacral Spina Bifida Occulta in population samples from the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt.

International journal of paleopathology, 26:93-103.

OBJECTIVE: To document sacral spina bifida occulta (SSB0) prevalence in a population sample from the Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt, and address methodological issues in recording and quantifying SSBO variations.

MATERIALS: 442 adult sacra from two temporally disjunct samples from the same deme traversing the 3rd intermediate (TIP) and the Roman Periods.

METHODS: Sacra were scored for SSBO, excluding the sacral hiatus. Risk of SSBO was calculated with the common odds ratio and statistical significance by X2. Data were compared to other archaeological SSBO data.

RESULTS: SSBO was present in 15.6% of the sample with a slight, but not significant, temporal increase (TIP to Roman Period) in males, and a significant age-correlated increase in both sexes. Most open sacra occurred in young adults.

CONCLUSIONS: Data support that SSBO can be considered as a morphogenetic variant. Dakhleh data fall within the prevalence range for most populations, however inter-population comparisons are complicated by methodological inconsistencies.

SIGNIFICANCE: SSBO can be used in paleogenetic research.

LIMITATIONS: Methodological differences in scoring SSBO prevent effective comparative study.

SUGGESTED FUTURE RESEARCH: Future studies require more rigorous and standardized scoring methods. aDNA may be used to corroborate the morphogenetic value of SSBO and determine its clinical significance.

RevDate: 2019-12-02

Günther T, C Nettelblad (2019)

The presence and impact of reference bias on population genomic studies of prehistoric human populations.

PLoS genetics, 15(7):e1008302 pii:PGENETICS-D-19-00061.

Haploid high quality reference genomes are an important resource in genomic research projects. A consequence is that DNA fragments carrying the reference allele will be more likely to map successfully, or receive higher quality scores. This reference bias can have effects on downstream population genomic analysis when heterozygous sites are falsely considered homozygous for the reference allele. In palaeogenomic studies of human populations, mapping against the human reference genome is used to identify endogenous human sequences. Ancient DNA studies usually operate with low sequencing coverages and fragmentation of DNA molecules causes a large proportion of the sequenced fragments to be shorter than 50 bp-reducing the amount of accepted mismatches, and increasing the probability of multiple matching sites in the genome. These ancient DNA specific properties are potentially exacerbating the impact of reference bias on downstream analyses, especially since most studies of ancient human populations use pseudo-haploid data, i.e. they randomly sample only one sequencing read per site. We show that reference bias is pervasive in published ancient DNA sequence data of prehistoric humans with some differences between individual genomic regions. We illustrate that the strength of reference bias is negatively correlated with fragment length. Most genomic regions we investigated show little to no mapping bias but even a small proportion of sites with bias can impact analyses of those particular loci or slightly skew genome-wide estimates. Therefore, reference bias has the potential to cause minor but significant differences in the results of downstream analyses such as population allele sharing, heterozygosity estimates and estimates of archaic ancestry. These spurious results highlight how important it is to be aware of these technical artifacts and that we need strategies to mitigate the effect. Therefore, we suggest some post-mapping filtering strategies to resolve reference bias which help to reduce its impact substantially.

RevDate: 2019-10-29

Mas-Sandoval A, Arauna LR, Gouveia MH, et al (2019)

Reconstructed Lost Native American Populations from Eastern Brazil Are Shaped by Differential Jê/Tupi Ancestry.

Genome biology and evolution, 11(9):2593-2604.

After the colonization of the Americas by Europeans and the consequent Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, most Native American populations in eastern Brazil disappeared or went through an admixture process that configured a population composed of three main genetic components: the European, the sub-Saharan African, and the Native American. The study of the Native American genetic history is challenged by the lack of availability of genome-wide samples from Native American populations, the technical difficulties to develop ancient DNA studies, and the low proportions of the Native American component in the admixed Brazilian populations (on average 7%). We analyzed genome-wide data of 5,825 individuals from three locations of eastern Brazil: Salvador (North-East), Bambui (South-East), and Pelotas (South) and we reconstructed populations that emulate the Native American groups that were living in the 16th century around the sampling locations. This genetic reconstruction was performed after local ancestry analysis of the admixed Brazilian populations, through the rearrangement of the Native American haplotypes into reconstructed individuals with full Native American ancestry (51 reconstructed individuals in Salvador, 45 in Bambui, and 197 in Pelotas). We compared the reconstructed populations with nonadmixed Native American populations from other regions of Brazil through haplotype-based methods. Our results reveal a population structure shaped by the dichotomy of Tupi-/Jê-speaking ancestry related groups. We also show evidence of a decrease of the diversity of nonadmixed Native American groups after the European contact, in contrast with the reconstructed populations, suggesting a reservoir of the Native American genetic diversity within the admixed Brazilian population.

RevDate: 2019-07-26

Prufer KM, Alsgaard AV, Robinson M, et al (2019)

Linking late Paleoindian stone tool technologies and populations in North, Central and South America.

PloS one, 14(7):e0219812 pii:PONE-D-19-13363.

From the perspective of Central and South America, the peopling of the New World was a complex process lasting thousands of years and involving multiple waves of Pleistocene and early Holocene period immigrants entering into the neotropics. These Paleoindian colonists initially brought with them technologies developed for adaptation to environments and resources found in North America. As the ice age ended across the New World people adapted more generalized stone tools to exploit changing environments and resources. In the neotropics these changes would have been pronounced as patchy forests and grasslands gave way to broadleaf tropical forests. We document a late Pleistocene/early Holocene stone tool tradition from Belize, located in southern Mesoamerica. This represents the first endogenous Paleoindian stone tool technocomplex recovered from well dated stratigraphic contexts for Mesoamerica. Previously designated Lowe, these artifacts share multiple features with contemporary North and South American Paleoindian tool types. Once hafted, these bifaces appear to have served multiple functions for cutting, hooking, thrusting, or throwing. The tools were developed at a time of technological regionalization reflecting the diverse demands of a period of pronounced environmental change and population movement. Combined stratigraphic, technological, and population paleogenetic data suggests that there were strong ties between lowland neotropic regions at the onset of the Holocene.

RevDate: 2019-07-16

Hong JH, Seo M, Oh CS, et al (2019)

Genetic Analysis of Small-Subunit Ribosomal RNA, Internal Transcribed Spacer 2, and ATP Synthase Subunit 8 of Trichuris trichiura Ancient DNA Retrieved from the 15th to 18th Century Joseon Dynasty Mummies' Coprolites from Korea.

The Journal of parasitology, 105(4):539-545.

Although parasitic infection by Trichuris trichiura is a very common intestinal helminthic disease worldwide, there is still insufficient information on the genetic characteristics of ancient T. trichiura in different spatiotemporal perspectives. Utilizing coprolite specimens obtained from 15th-18th century mummies dating to the Joseon Dynasty, we analyzed small-subunit ribosomal RNA, internal transcribed spacer 2, and ATP synthase subunit 8 of T. trichiura ancient DNA (aDNA). In BLAST and phylogenetic analyses, the T. trichiura aDNA sequences of this study belong to a separate cluster that is evidently distinct from the other genus Trichuris spp. reported in GenBank. This report characterizes T. trichiura aDNA of pre-20th century East Asia, and in so doing, it also proves the potential of aDNA analysis for differential diagnosis of T. trichiura in cases where ancient parasite eggs are morphologically indeterminate for species identification.

RevDate: 2019-08-09

Bokelmann L, Hajdinjak M, Peyrégne S, et al (2019)

A genetic analysis of the Gibraltar Neanderthals.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(31):15610-15615.

The Forbes' Quarry and Devil's Tower partial crania from Gibraltar are among the first Neanderthal remains ever found. Here, we show that small amounts of ancient DNA are preserved in the petrous bones of the 2 individuals despite unfavorable climatic conditions. However, the endogenous Neanderthal DNA is present among an overwhelming excess of recent human DNA. Using improved DNA library construction methods that enrich for DNA fragments carrying deaminated cytosine residues, we were able to sequence 70 and 0.4 megabase pairs (Mbp) nuclear DNA of the Forbes' Quarry and Devil's Tower specimens, respectively, as well as large parts of the mitochondrial genome of the Forbes' Quarry individual. We confirm that the Forbes' Quarry individual was a female and the Devil's Tower individual a male. We also show that the Forbes' Quarry individual is genetically more similar to the ∼120,000-y-old Neanderthals from Scladina Cave in Belgium (Scladina I-4A) and Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave in Germany, as well as to a ∼60,000- to 70,000-y-old Neanderthal from Russia (Mezmaiskaya 1), than to a ∼49,000-y-old Neanderthal from El Sidrón (El Sidrón 1253) in northern Spain and other younger Neanderthals from Europe and western Asia. This suggests that the Forbes' Quarry fossil predates the latter Neanderthals. The preservation of archaic human DNA in the warm coastal climate of Gibraltar, close to the shores of Africa, raises hopes for the future recovery of archaic human DNA from regions in which climatic conditions are less than optimal for DNA preservation.

RevDate: 2019-07-23

Järve M, Saag L, Scheib CL, et al (2019)

Shifts in the Genetic Landscape of the Western Eurasian Steppe Associated with the Beginning and End of the Scythian Dominance.

Current biology : CB, 29(14):2430-2441.e10.

The Early Iron Age nomadic Scythians have been described as a confederation of tribes of different origins, based on ancient DNA evidence [1-3]. It is still unclear how much of the Scythian dominance in the Eurasian Steppe was due to movements of people and how much reflected cultural diffusion and elite dominance. We present new whole-genome sequences of 31 ancient Western and Eastern Steppe individuals, including Scythians as well as samples pre- and postdating them, allowing us to set the Scythians in a temporal context (in the Western, i.e., Ponto-Caspian Steppe). We detect an increase of eastern (Altaian) affinity along with a decrease in eastern hunter-gatherer (EHG) ancestry in the Early Iron Age Ponto-Caspian gene pool at the start of the Scythian dominance. On the other hand, samples of the Chernyakhiv culture postdating the Scythians in Ukraine have a significantly higher proportion of Near Eastern ancestry than other samples of this study. Our results agree with the Gothic source of the Chernyakhiv culture and support the hypothesis that the Scythian dominance did involve a demic component.

RevDate: 2019-10-31
CmpDate: 2019-10-31

Houldcroft CJ, Rifkin RF, SJ Underdown (2019)

Human biology and ancient DNA: exploring disease, domestication and movement.

Annals of human biology, 46(2):95-98.

RevDate: 2019-08-08

Teixeira JC, A Cooper (2019)

Using hominin introgression to trace modern human dispersals.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(31):15327-15332.

The dispersal of anatomically modern human populations out of Africa and across much of the rest of the world around 55 to 50 thousand years before present (ka) is recorded genetically by the multiple hominin groups they met and interbred with along the way, including the Neandertals and Denisovans. The signatures of these introgression events remain preserved in the genomes of modern-day populations, and provide a powerful record of the sequence and timing of these early migrations, with Asia proving a particularly complex area. At least 3 different hominin groups appear to have been involved in Asia, of which only the Denisovans are currently known. Several interbreeding events are inferred to have taken place east of Wallace's Line, consistent with archaeological evidence of widespread and early hominin presence in the area. However, archaeological and fossil evidence indicates archaic hominins had not spread as far as the Sahul continent (New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania), where recent genetic evidence remains enigmatic.

RevDate: 2019-11-01

Koch E, Schweizer RM, Schweizer TM, et al (2019)

De novo mutation rate estimation in wolves of known pedigree.

Molecular biology and evolution [Epub ahead of print].

Knowledge of mutation rates is crucial for calibrating population genetics models of demographic history in units of years. However, mutation rates remain challenging to estimate because of the need to identify extremely rare events. We estimated the nuclear mutation rate in wolves by identifying de novo mutations in a pedigree of seven wolves. Putative de novo mutations were discovered by whole-genome sequencing and were verified by Sanger sequencing of parents and offspring. Using stringent filters and an estimate of the false negative rate in the remaining observable genome, we obtain an estimate of ∼4.5 x 10-9 per base pair per generation and provide conservative bounds from 2.6 x 10-9 and 7.1 x 10-9. Although our estimate is consistent with recent mutation rate estimates from ancient DNA (4.0 x 10-9 and 3.0-4.5 x 10-9), it implies a wider possible range. We also examined the consequences of our rate and the accompanying interval for dating several critical events in canid demographic history. For example, applying our full range of rates to coalescent models of dog and wolf demographic history implies a wide set of possible divergence times between the ancestral populations of dogs and extant Eurasian wolves (16,000 - 64,000 years ago) although our point estimate indicates a date between 25,000 and 33,000 years ago. Aside from one study in mice, ours provides the only direct mammalian mutation rate outside of primates, and is likely to be vital to future investigations of mutation rate evolution.

RevDate: 2019-07-23

Cornille A, Antolín F, Garcia E, et al (2019)

A Multifaceted Overview of Apple Tree Domestication.

Trends in plant science, 24(8):770-782.

The apple is an iconic tree and a major fruit crop worldwide. It is also a model species for the study of the evolutionary processes and genomic basis underlying the domestication of clonally propagated perennial crops. Multidisciplinary approaches from across Eurasia have documented the pace and process of cultivation of this remarkable crop. While population genetics and genomics have revealed the overall domestication history of apple across Eurasia, untangling the evolutionary processes involved, archeobotany has helped to document the transition from gathering and using apples to the practice of cultivation. Further studies integrating archeogenetic and archeogenomic approaches will bring new insights about key traits involved in apple domestication. Such knowledge has potential to boost innovation in present-day apple breeding.

RevDate: 2019-07-26

Zimmermann HH, Harms L, Epp LS, et al (2019)

Chloroplast and mitochondrial genetic variation of larches at the Siberian tundra-taiga ecotone revealed by de novo assembly.

PloS one, 14(7):e0216966 pii:PONE-D-19-08275.

Larix populations at the tundra-taiga ecotone in northern Siberia are highly under-represented in population genetic studies, possibly due to the remoteness of these regions that can only be accessed at extraordinary expense. The genetic signatures of populations in these boundary regions are therefore largely unknown. We aim to generate organelle reference genomes for the detection of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that can be used for paleogenetic studies. We present 19 complete chloroplast genomes and mitochondrial genomic sequences of larches from the southern lowlands of the Taymyr Peninsula (northernmost range of Larix gmelinii (Rupr.) Kuzen.), the lower Omoloy River, and the lower Kolyma River (both in the range of Larix cajanderi Mayr). The genomic data reveal 84 chloroplast SNPs and 213 putatively mitochondrial SNPs. Parsimony-based chloroplast haplotype networks show no spatial structure of individuals from different geographic origins, while the mitochondrial haplotype network shows at least a slight spatial structure with haplotypes from the Omoloy and Kolyma populations being more closely related to each other than to most of the haplotypes from the Taymyr populations. Whole genome alignments with publicly available complete chloroplast genomes of different Larix species show that among official plant barcodes only the rcbL gene contains sufficient polymorphisms, but has to be sequenced completely to distinguish the different provenances. We provide 8 novel mitochondrial SNPs that are putatively diagnostic for the separation of L. gmelinii and L. cajanderi, while 4 chloroplast SNPs have the potential to distinguish the L. gmelinii/L. cajanderi group from other Larix species. Our organelle references can be used for a targeted primer and probe design allowing the generation of short amplicons. This is particularly important with regard to future investigations of, for example, the biogeographic history of Larix by screening ancient sedimentary DNA of Larix.

RevDate: 2019-08-20

Lan TM, Lin Y, Njaramba-Ngatia J, et al (2019)

Improving Species Identification of Ancient Mammals Based on Next-Generation Sequencing Data.

Genes, 10(7): pii:genes10070509.

The taxonomical identification merely based on morphology is often difficult for ancient remains. Therefore, universal or specific PCR amplification followed by sequencing and BLAST (basic local alignment search tool) search has become the most frequently used genetic-based method for the species identification of biological samples, including ancient remains. However, it is challenging for these methods to process extremely ancient samples with severe DNA fragmentation and contamination. Here, we applied whole-genome sequencing data from 12 ancient samples with ages ranging from 2.7 to 700 kya to compare different mapping algorithms, and tested different reference databases, mapping similarities and query coverage to explore the best method and mapping parameters that can improve the accuracy of ancient mammal species identification. The selected method and parameters were tested using 152 ancient samples, and 150 of the samples were successfully identified. We further screened the BLAST-based mapping results according to the deamination characteristics of ancient DNA to improve the ability of ancient species identification. Our findings demonstrate a marked improvement to the normal procedures used for ancient species identification, which was achieved through defining the mapping and filtering guidelines to identify true ancient DNA sequences. The guidelines summarized in this study could be valuable in archaeology, paleontology, evolution, and forensic science. For the convenience of the scientific community, we wrote a software script with Perl, called AncSid, which is made available on GitHub.

RevDate: 2019-09-10

Bos KI, Kühnert D, Herbig A, et al (2019)

Paleomicrobiology: Diagnosis and Evolution of Ancient Pathogens.

Annual review of microbiology, 73:639-666.

The last century has witnessed progress in the study of ancient infectious disease from purely medical descriptions of past ailments to dynamic interpretations of past population health that draw upon multiple perspectives. The recent adoption of high-throughput DNA sequencing has led to an expanded understanding of pathogen presence, evolution, and ecology across the globe. This genomic revolution has led to the identification of disease-causing microbes in both expected and unexpected contexts, while also providing for the genomic characterization of ancient pathogens previously believed to be unattainable by available methods. In this review we explore the development of DNA-based ancient pathogen research, the specialized methods and tools that have emerged to authenticate and explore infectious disease of the past, and the unique challenges that persist in molecular paleopathology. We offer guidelines to mitigate the impact of these challenges, which will allow for more reliable interpretations of data in this rapidly evolving field of investigation.

RevDate: 2019-07-11

Feldman M, Master DM, Bianco RA, et al (2019)

Ancient DNA sheds light on the genetic origins of early Iron Age Philistines.

Science advances, 5(7):eaax0061 pii:aax0061.

The ancient Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon, identified as "Philistine" during the Iron Age, underwent a marked cultural change between the Late Bronze and the early Iron Age. It has been long debated whether this change was driven by a substantial movement of people, possibly linked to a larger migration of the so-called "Sea Peoples." Here, we report genome-wide data of 10 Bronze and Iron Age individuals from Ashkelon. We find that the early Iron Age population was genetically distinct due to a European-related admixture. This genetic signal is no longer detectible in the later Iron Age population. Our results support that a migration event occurred during the Bronze to Iron Age transition in Ashkelon but did not leave a long-lasting genetic signature.

RevDate: 2019-09-12

Fleskes RE, Bruwelheide KS, West FL, et al (2019)

Ancient DNA and bioarchaeological perspectives on European and African diversity and relationships on the colonial Delaware frontier.

American journal of physical anthropology, 170(2):232-245.

OBJECTIVES: Ancient DNA (aDNA) and standard osteological analyses applied to 11 skeletons at a late 17th to early 18th century farmstead site in Delaware to investigate the biological and social factors of settlement and slavery in colonial America.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Osteological analysis and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing were conducted for all individuals and the resulting data contextualized with archaeological and documentary evidence.

RESULTS: Individuals of European and African descent were spatially separated in this colonial cemetery. The skeletal remains exhibited differences in osteological features and maternal genetic ancestry. A specific mtDNA haplotype appeared in a subset of the European-descended individuals suggesting they were maternally related. Individuals of African descent were not maternally related, and instead showed a diversity of haplotypes affiliated with present-day Western, Central, and Eastern regions of Africa.

DISCUSSION: Along with the bioarchaeological and documentary evidence, the aDNA findings contribute to our understanding of life on the colonial Delaware frontier. Evidence of maternal relatedness among European-descended individuals at the site demonstrates kin-based settlements in 17th century Delaware and provides preliminary identifications of individuals. The maternal genetic diversity of the individuals with African descent aligns with the routes of the trans-Atlantic slave trade but broadens our understanding of the ancestries of persons involved in it. Burial positioning, osteological pathology, and lack of maternal kinship among individuals of African descent provide tangible evidence for the emergence of racialized labor and society in Delaware during the late 17th century.

RevDate: 2019-11-01
CmpDate: 2019-11-01

Silva M, Justeau P, Rodrigues S, et al (2019)

Untangling Neolithic and Bronze Age mitochondrial lineages in South Asia.

Annals of human biology, 46(2):140-144.

Two key moments shaped the extant South Asian gene pool within the last 10 thousand years (ka): the Neolithic period, with the advent of agriculture and the rise of the Harappan/Indus Valley Civilisation; and Late Bronze Age events that witnessed the abrupt fall of the Harappan Civilisation and the arrival of Indo-European speakers. This study focuses on the phylogeographic patterns of mitochondrial haplogroups H2 and H13 in the Indian Subcontinent and incorporates evidence from recently released ancient genomes from Central and South Asia. It found signals of Neolithic arrivals from Iran and later movements in the Bronze Age from Central Asia that derived ultimately from the Steppe. This study shows how a detailed mtDNA phylogeographic approach, combining both modern and ancient variation, can provide evidence of population movements, even in a scenario of strong male bias such as in the case of the Bronze Age Steppe dispersals.

RevDate: 2019-08-24

Joseph TA, I Pe'er (2019)

Inference of Population Structure from Time-Series Genotype Data.

American journal of human genetics, 105(2):317-333.

Sequencing ancient DNA can offer direct probing of population history. Yet, such data are commonly analyzed with standard tools that assume DNA samples are all contemporary. We present DyStruct, a model and inference algorithm for inferring shared ancestry from temporally sampled genotype data. DyStruct explicitly incorporates temporal dynamics by modeling individuals as mixtures of unobserved populations whose allele frequencies drift over time. We develop an efficient inference algorithm for our model using stochastic variational inference. On simulated data, we show that DyStruct outperforms the current state of the art when individuals are sampled over time. Using a dataset of 296 modern and 80 ancient samples, we demonstrate DyStruct is able to capture a well-supported admixture event of steppe ancestry into modern Europe. We further apply DyStruct to a genome-wide dataset of 2,067 modern and 262 ancient samples used to study the origin of farming in the Near East. We show that DyStruct provides new insight into population history when compared with alternate approaches, within feasible run time.

RevDate: 2019-08-20
CmpDate: 2019-08-02

Angelici FM, Ciucani MM, Angelini S, et al (2019)

The Sicilian Wolf: Genetic Identity of a Recently Extinct Insular Population.

Zoological science, 36(3):189-197.

Historically, many local grey wolf (Canis lupus) populations have undergone substantial reductions in size or become extinct. Among these, the wolf population once living in Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, was completely eradicated by human activity in the early decades of the 20th century. To gain a better understanding of the genetic identity of the Sicilian wolf, we used techniques for the study of ancient DNA to analyze the mitochondrial (mt) variability of six specimens stored in Italian museums. We were able to amplify a diagnostic mtDNA fragment of the control region (CR) in four of the samples. Two of the samples shared the same haplotype, differing by two substitutions from the currently most diffused Italian wolf haplotype (W14) and one substitution from the only other Italian haplotype (W16). The third sample showed a previously unreported wolf-like haplotype, and the fourth a haplotype commonly found in dogs. All of the wolf haplotypes analyzed in this study belonged to the mitochondrial haplogroup that includes haplotypes detected in all the known European Pleistocene wolves and in several modern southern European populations. Unfortunately, this endemic island population, which exhibited unique mtDNA variability, was definitively lost before it was possible to understand its taxonomic uniqueness and conservational value.

RevDate: 2019-07-31

Silva PC, Malabarba MC, Vari In Memoriam R, et al (2019)

Comparison and optimization for DNA extraction of archived fish specimens.

MethodsX, 6:1433-1442 pii:S2215-0161(19)30158-X.

The DNA extracted from museum alcohol-fixed specimens can be a valuable source of information for solving taxonomic, phylogenetic, ecological and conservational questions. However, this type of DNA, also called ancient DNA, is routinely obtained in small portions and highly fragmented. We have tested two different extraction kits in museum type-specimens of the fish family Characidae. Aiming to increase the DNA yield, we made modifications on a Qiagen manufacturer protocol, in the elution step. Also, to overcome the issue of DNA fragmentation, we applied our efforts in Sanger sequencing, to find a highly variable and, in result, informative COI fragment. Based on our results, there is no correlation between amount of the DNA extracted and the age of the sample. The Sanger sequencing generated sequences which are useful in solving taxonomic puzzles. Here are presented the customization and guidelines that allowed us to recover DNA from the archived fish specimens. •DNA extraction from archived fish specimens is more effective when using silica columns.•Change of the elution times from minutes in room temperature to 24 h in freezer greatly improved the DNA yielded.•Short but highly variable sequences replace the need to sequence the entire gene to identify a species.

RevDate: 2019-06-27

Botbayev D, Ravegnini G, Sammarini G, et al (2019)

Absence of mutations in the human interferon alpha-2b gene in workers chronically exposed to ionising radiation.

Arhiv za higijenu rada i toksikologiju, 70(2):104-108.

Individuals chronically exposed to low-level ionising radiation (IR) run the risk of harmful and long-term adverse health effects, including gene mutations and cancer development. The search for reliable biomarkers of IR exposure in human population is still of great interest, as they may have a great implementation potential for the surveillance of occupationally exposed individuals. In this context, and considering previous literature, this study aimed to identify mutations in the human interferon alpha-2b (hIFNα-2b) as a potential biomarker of occupational chronic low-dose IR exposure linking low-IR exposure to the effects on haematopoiesis and reduced immunity. The analysis was performed in the genomic DNA of 51 uranium miners and 38 controls from Kazakhstan, and in 21 medical radiology workers and 21 controls from Italy. hIFNα-2b gene mutations were analysed with the real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or Sanger sequencing. However, none of the investigated workers had the hIFNα-2b mutation. This finding highlights the need for further research to identify biomarkers for early detection of health effects associated with chronic low-dose IR exposure.

RevDate: 2019-12-05

De Schepper S, Ray JL, Skaar KS, et al (2019)

The potential of sedimentary ancient DNA for reconstructing past sea ice evolution.

The ISME journal, 13(10):2566-2577.

Sea ice is a crucial component of the Arctic climate system, yet the tools to document the evolution of sea ice conditions on historical and geological time scales are few and have limitations. Such records are essential for documenting and understanding the natural variations in Arctic sea ice extent. Here we explore sedimentary ancient DNA (aDNA), as a novel tool that unlocks and exploits the genetic (eukaryote) biodiversity preserved in marine sediments specifically for past sea ice reconstructions. Although use of sedimentary aDNA in paleoceanographic and paleoclimatic studies is still in its infancy, we use here metabarcoding and single-species quantitative DNA detection methods to document the sea ice conditions in a Greenland Sea marine sediment core. Metabarcoding has allowed identifying biodiversity changes in the geological record back to almost ~100,000 years ago that were related to changing sea ice conditions. Detailed bioinformatic analyses on the metabarcoding data revealed several sea-ice-associated taxa, most of which previously unknown from the fossil record. Finally, we quantitatively traced one known sea ice dinoflagellate in the sediment core. We show that aDNA can be recovered from deep-ocean sediments with generally oxic bottom waters and that past sea ice conditions can be documented beyond instrumental time scales. Our results corroborate sea ice reconstructions made by traditional tools, and thus demonstrate the potential of sedimentary aDNA, focusing primarily on microbial eukaryotes, as a new tool to better understand sea ice evolution in the climate system.

RevDate: 2019-10-16

Eisenhofer R, A Cooper (2019)

A new home for microbes.

eLife, 8: pii:48493.

Modern microorganisms growing in fossils provide major challenges for researchers trying to detect ancient molecules in the same fossils.

RevDate: 2019-08-21

Borówka P, Pułaski Ł, Marciniak B, et al (2019)

Screening methods for detection of ancient Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex fingerprints in next-generation sequencing data derived from skeletal samples.

GigaScience, 8(6):.

BACKGROUND: Recent advances in ancient DNA studies, especially in increasing isolated DNA yields and quality, have opened the possibility of analysis of ancient host microbiome. However, such pitfalls as spurious identification of pathogens based on fragmentary data or environmental contamination could lead to incorrect epidaemiological conclusions. Within the Mycobacterium genus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex members responsible for tuberculosis share up to ∼99% genomic sequence identity, while other more distantly related Mycobacteria other than M. tuberculosis can be causative agents for pulmonary diseases or soil dwellers. Therefore, reliable determination of species complex is crucial for interpretation of sequencing results.

RESULTS: Here we present a novel bioinformatical approach, used for screening of ancient tuberculosis in sequencing data, derived from 28 individuals (dated 4400-4000 and 3100-2900 BC) from central Poland. We demonstrate that cost-effective next-generation screening sequencing data (∼20M reads per sample) could yield enough information to provide statistically supported identification of probable ancient disease cases.

CONCLUSIONS: Application of appropriate bioinformatic tools, including an unbiased selection of genomic alignment targets for species specificity, makes it possible to extract valid data from full-sample sequencing results (without subjective targeted enrichment procedures). This approach broadens the potential scope of palaeoepidaemiology both to older, suboptimally preserved samples and to pathogens with difficult intrageneric taxonomy.

RevDate: 2019-10-07

Xavier C, Eduardoff M, Strobl C, et al (2019)

SD quants-Sensitive detection tetraplex-system for nuclear and mitochondrial DNA quantification and degradation inference.

Forensic science international. Genetics, 42:39-44.

Measuring the quantity of DNA present in a forensic sample is relevant in a number of ways. First, it informs the analyst about the general DNA content to adjust the volume of DNA extract used for the genotyping assay to the optimal conditions (when possible). Second, quantification values can serve as plausibility checks for the performance of the DNA extraction method used as extraction positive and negative controls demand expected values. Third and relevant to highly compromised specimens, DNA quantification can inform about the degradation state of the DNA extracted from the unknown biological sample and aid the choice of downstream genotyping assays. While there are different, commercial products for the quantification of nuclear DNA available, commercial mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) quantification systems are rare. Even more so, the simultaneous quantification of nuclear and mtDNA that is of relevance in highly degraded forensic specimens has rarely been described. We present here a novel real-time qPCR based tetraplex system termed SD quants that targets two different-sized mtDNA and a nuclear DNA region and includes an internal positive control to monitor potential inhibition. SD quants was compared to other existing quantification systems and subjected to analysis of severely degraded DNA present in ancient DNA and aged forensic specimens. This study complies with the MIQE (Bustin et al., 2009) guidelines (when applicable).

RevDate: 2019-06-30

Wren CD, A Burke (2019)

Habitat suitability and the genetic structure of human populations during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in Western Europe.

PloS one, 14(6):e0217996 pii:PONE-D-19-02959.

Human populations in Western Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum were geographically constrained to glacial refugia by the severity of the climate and ecological risk factors. In this research we use an agent-based model of human mobility and interaction, based on ethnographic and archaeological data, to explore the impact of ecological risk on human population structure via a reconstructed landscape of habitat suitability. The agent-based model allows us to evaluate the size and location of glacial refugia, the size of the populations occupying them and the degree of genetic relatedness between people occupying these areas. To do this, we model the probability of an agent foraging groups' survival as a function of habitat suitability. The model's simulated "genomes" (composed of regionally specific genetic markers) allow us to track long-term trends of inter-regional interaction and mobility. The results agree with previous archaeological studies situating a large glacial refugium spanning southern France and northeastern Spain, but we expand on those studies by demonstrating that higher rates of population growth in this central refugium led to continuous out-migration and therefore genetic homogeneity across Western Europe, with the possible exception of the Italian peninsula. These results concur with material culture data from known archaeological sites dating to the Last Glacial Maximum and make predictions for future ancient DNA studies.

RevDate: 2019-10-08

Epp LS (2019)

A global perspective for biodiversity history with ancient environmental DNA.

Molecular ecology, 28(10):2456-2458.

The past centuries have seen tremendous turnovers in species distributions and biodiversity due to anthropogenic impacts on a global scale. The processes are ongoing and mostly not well documented. Long-term records of biotic change can be recovered from sedimentary deposits, but traditional analyses were restricted to organisms that leave behind visible traces and molecular genetic tools were mostly employed on samples that promised good DNA preservation. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Shaw, Weyrich, Hallegraeff and Cooper (2019) and Gomez Cabrera et al. (2019) present two studies on marine sedimentary records from warm environments, in which they successfully analyze ancient environmental DNA (aeDNA) on a decadal and centennial scale. Notably, the studies were conducted on novel samples with nonoptimal preservation conditions for ancient DNA - historical collections of ship ballast tank sediments from Australia and two coral reef cores spanning up to 750 years (Figure 1) - but yielded a high diversity of taxa. This highlights that aeDNA is a promising tool to globally study biodiversity history on scales of decades to centuries - the timeframe most relevant to human society in the context of both current climate change and direct anthropogenic modifications of the environment.

RevDate: 2019-10-28
CmpDate: 2019-10-28

Bradshaw CJA, Ulm S, Williams AN, et al (2019)

Minimum founding populations for the first peopling of Sahul.

Nature ecology & evolution, 3(7):1057-1063.

The timing, context and nature of the first people to enter Sahul is still poorly understood owing to a fragmented archaeological record. However, quantifying the plausible demographic context of this founding population is essential to determine how and why the initial peopling of Sahul occurred. We developed a stochastic, age-structured model using demographic rates from hunter-gatherer societies, and relative carrying capacity hindcasted with LOVECLIM's net primary productivity for northern Sahul. We projected these populations to determine the resilience and minimum sizes required to avoid extinction. A census founding population of between 1,300 and 1,550 individuals was necessary to maintain a quasi-extinction threshold of ≲0.1. This minimum founding population could have arrived at a single point in time, or through multiple voyages of ≥130 people over ~700-900 years. This result shows that substantial population amalgamation in Sunda and Wallacea in Marine Isotope Stages 3-4 provided the conditions for the successful, large-scale and probably planned peopling of Sahul.

RevDate: 2019-08-19

Petrigh RS, Martínez JG, Mondini M, et al (2019)

Ancient parasitic DNA reveals Toxascaris leonina presence in Final Pleistocene of South America.

Parasitology, 146(10):1284-1288.

Parasitological analysis of coprolites has allowed exploring ecological relationships in ancient times. Ancient DNA analysis contributes to the identification of coprolites and their parasites. Pleistocene mammalian carnivore coprolites were recovered from paleontological and archaeological site Peñas de las Trampas 1.1 in the southern Puna of Argentina. With the aim of exploring ancient ecological relationships, parasitological analysis was performed to one of them, dated to 16 573-17 002 calibrated years BP, with 95.4% probability. Parasite eggs attributed to Toxascaris sp. by morphological characters were isolated. DNA of coprolite and eggs was extracted to molecular identification. Ancient mitochondrial DNA analysis confirmed the zoological origin of the coprolite as Puma concolor and that of parasite eggs as Toxascaris leonina. This is the oldest molecular parasite record worldwide, and it supports the presence of this parasite since the Pleistocene in America. These findings have implications for the biogeographic history of parasites and for the natural history of the region.

RevDate: 2019-11-08
CmpDate: 2019-11-01

Scheib CL, Hui R, D'Atanasio E, et al (2019)

East Anglian early Neolithic monument burial linked to contemporary Megaliths.

Annals of human biology, 46(2):145-149.

In the fourth millennium BCE a cultural phenomenon of monumental burial structures spread along the Atlantic façade. Megalithic burials have been targeted for aDNA analyses, but a gap remains in East Anglia, where Neolithic structures were generally earthen or timber. An early Neolithic (3762-3648 cal. BCE) burial monument at the site of Trumpington Meadows, Cambridgeshire, UK, contained the partially articulated remains of at least three individuals. To determine whether this monument fits a pattern present in megalithic burials regarding sex bias, kinship, diet and relationship to modern populations, teeth and ribs were analysed for DNA and carbon and nitrogen isotopic values, respectively. Whole ancient genomes were sequenced from two individuals to a mean genomic coverage of 1.6 and 1.2X and genotypes imputed. Results show that they were brothers from a small population genetically and isotopically similar to previously published British Neolithic individuals, with a level of genome-wide homozygosity consistent with a small island population sourced from continental Europe, but bearing no signs of recent inbreeding. The first Neolithic whole genomes from a monumental burial in East Anglia confirm that this region was connected with the larger pattern of Neolithic megaliths in the British Isles and the Atlantic façade.

RevDate: 2019-06-18

Delsuc F, Kuch M, Gibb GC, et al (2019)

Ancient Mitogenomes Reveal the Evolutionary History and Biogeography of Sloths.

Current biology : CB, 29(12):2031-2042.e6.

Living sloths represent two distinct lineages of small-sized mammals that independently evolved arboreality from terrestrial ancestors. The six extant species are the survivors of an evolutionary radiation marked by the extinction of large terrestrial forms at the end of the Quaternary. Until now, sloth evolutionary history has mainly been reconstructed from phylogenetic analyses of morphological characters. Here, we used ancient DNA methods to successfully sequence 10 extinct sloth mitogenomes encompassing all major lineages. This includes the iconic continental ground sloths Megatherium, Megalonyx, Mylodon, and Nothrotheriops and the smaller endemic Caribbean sloths Parocnus and Acratocnus. Phylogenetic analyses identify eight distinct lineages grouped in three well-supported clades, whose interrelationships are markedly incongruent with the currently accepted morphological topology. We show that recently extinct Caribbean sloths have a single origin but comprise two highly divergent lineages that are not directly related to living two-fingered sloths, which instead group with Mylodon. Moreover, living three-fingered sloths do not represent the sister group to all other sloths but are nested within a clade of extinct ground sloths including Megatherium, Megalonyx, and Nothrotheriops. Molecular dating also reveals that the eight newly recognized sloth families all originated between 36 and 28 million years ago (mya). The early divergence of recently extinct Caribbean sloths around 35 mya is consistent with the debated GAARlandia hypothesis postulating the existence at that time of a biogeographic connection between northern South America and the Greater Antilles. This new molecular phylogeny has major implications for reinterpreting sloth morphological evolution, biogeography, and diversification history.

RevDate: 2019-10-28
CmpDate: 2019-10-28

Presslee S, Slater GJ, Pujos F, et al (2019)

Palaeoproteomics resolves sloth relationships.

Nature ecology & evolution, 3(7):1121-1130.

The living tree sloths Choloepus and Bradypus are the only remaining members of Folivora, a major xenarthran radiation that occupied a wide range of habitats in many parts of the western hemisphere during the Cenozoic, including both continents and the West Indies. Ancient DNA evidence has played only a minor role in folivoran systematics, as most sloths lived in places not conducive to genomic preservation. Here we utilize collagen sequence information, both separately and in combination with published mitochondrial DNA evidence, to assess the relationships of tree sloths and their extinct relatives. Results from phylogenetic analysis of these datasets differ substantially from morphology-based concepts: Choloepus groups with Mylodontidae, not Megalonychidae; Bradypus and Megalonyx pair together as megatherioids, while monophyletic Antillean sloths may be sister to all other folivorans. Divergence estimates are consistent with fossil evidence for mid-Cenozoic presence of sloths in the West Indies and an early Miocene radiation in South America.


RJR Experience and Expertise


Robbins holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in the life sciences. He served as a tenured faculty member in the Zoology and Biological Science departments at Michigan State University. He is currently exploring the intersection between genomics, microbial ecology, and biodiversity — an area that promises to transform our understanding of the biosphere.


Robbins has extensive experience in college-level education: At MSU he taught introductory biology, genetics, and population genetics. At JHU, he was an instructor for a special course on biological database design. At FHCRC, he team-taught a graduate-level course on the history of genetics. At Bellevue College he taught medical informatics.


Robbins has been involved in science administration at both the federal and the institutional levels. At NSF he was a program officer for database activities in the life sciences, at DOE he was a program officer for information infrastructure in the human genome project. At the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, he served as a vice president for fifteen years.


Robbins has been involved with information technology since writing his first Fortran program as a college student. At NSF he was the first program officer for database activities in the life sciences. At JHU he held an appointment in the CS department and served as director of the informatics core for the Genome Data Base. At the FHCRC he was VP for Information Technology.


While still at Michigan State, Robbins started his first publishing venture, founding a small company that addressed the short-run publishing needs of instructors in very large undergraduate classes. For more than 20 years, Robbins has been operating The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project, a web site dedicated to the digital publishing of critical works in science, especially classical genetics.


Robbins is well-known for his speaking abilities and is often called upon to provide keynote or plenary addresses at international meetings. For example, in July, 2012, he gave a well-received keynote address at the Global Biodiversity Informatics Congress, sponsored by GBIF and held in Copenhagen. The slides from that talk can be seen HERE.


Robbins is a skilled meeting facilitator. He prefers a participatory approach, with part of the meeting involving dynamic breakout groups, created by the participants in real time: (1) individuals propose breakout groups; (2) everyone signs up for one (or more) groups; (3) the groups with the most interested parties then meet, with reports from each group presented and discussed in a subsequent plenary session.


Robbins has been engaged with photography and design since the 1960s, when he worked for a professional photography laboratory. He now prefers digital photography and tools for their precision and reproducibility. He designed his first web site more than 20 years ago and he personally designed and implemented this web site. He engages in graphic design as a hobby.

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E-mail: RJR8222@gmail.com

Collection of publications by R J Robbins

Reprints and preprints of publications, slide presentations, instructional materials, and data compilations written or prepared by Robert Robbins. Most papers deal with computational biology, genome informatics, using information technology to support biomedical research, and related matters.

Research Gate page for R J Robbins

ResearchGate is a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. According to a study by Nature and an article in Times Higher Education , it is the largest academic social network in terms of active users.

Curriculum Vitae for R J Robbins

short personal version

Curriculum Vitae for R J Robbins

long standard version

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