Scientists from Max Planck University in Germany studied DNA from a Spanish cave and discovered thanks to it several waves of Neanderthal migration at once.
The authors studied fragments of Neanderthal DNA from the soil of three caves – Atapuerka, Denisova, and Chagyrskaya.
In one of the caves of the Atapuerca complex, we found traces of two populations of Neanderthals at once, which were not genetically related to each other. We are trying to understand why the disappearance of the first group of Neanderthals was connected with climate change or the anatomy of Homo neanderthalensis, which happened around the same time.
Juan Luis Arsuaga, one of the study authors and professor at the University of Madrid
Previously, the authors, scientists deciphered the renome of the Neanderthals and found that they had contact with our ancestors and left in human DNA from 2 to 4% of their genes. In order to find out more complete information, the authors analyzed the composition of the cave soil.
Scientists have extracted fragments of the genome from different soil layers, restored and decoded them. By analyzing these genomes, Professor Arsuaga and his colleagues found that not one, but two different groups of Neanderthals lived in the Atapuerca cave complex. One of them completely replaced the other about 100 thousand years ago.
It is interesting that in the genomes of both European and Altai Homo neanderthalensis, traces of two ancient migration waves of Neanderthals were also found: they occurred about 115 and 135 thousand years ago.
The authors hope that further excavations will help to understand what these events were associated with.