Thursday, April 23, 2015

Altamura Man

This is unsuual but it also appears to be prospective for usable DNA.  This will provide a DNA snapshot that is deep in time and is closely related to us.  It is also plausibly before we began to interbreed as well.  Thus we have a possible initial condition to work against.

Archeology is becoming more and more productive these past years mainly because of pure numbers of boots on the ground. 

Obviously more such caves need to be carefully searched.  Life found its way in and often got trapped.

After 150,000 Years in a Cave, a Neanderthal Skull Looks Like This

Sarah Zhang

This is the Altamura Man. He’s old. In 1993, cave researchers stumbled across an odd formation in Italy: a skull that had essentially grown over time to become part of the cave, calcite budding from its features. Now, scientists have discovered that it could easily be 150,000 years old.

Experts have been touchy about whether the Altamura Man’s skeleton should be removed for study. But recently, researchers led by Giorgio Manzi at the Sapienza University got permission to take a small piece of his shoulder bone. Uranium–thorium analysis place his age between 128,000 and 187,000 years old. The Neanderthal had likely fallen into the hole and died of starvation all those years ago. 

The scientists were also able to extract DNA from the bone—the oldest Neanderthal DNA ever collected, in fact. The next step is likely sequencing that genetic material, though that is much easier said than done. Because Neanderthal DNA is so similar to that of humans, a single particle of human skin could contaminate the results

This ancient DNA could yield some answers to how hominids evolved, but it won’t give them up easily. [Journal of Human Evolution via Nature]

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