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Contact: PNAS News Office
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

40,000-year-old DNA links present-day Asians, Native Americans to Beijing area

Ancient DNA has revealed that humans living some 40,000 years ago in the area near Beijing, China were likely related to many present-day Asians and Native Americans, according to a study. Qiaomei Fu and colleagues extracted nuclear DNA from a 40,000-year-old leg bone found at the Tianyuan Cave site located outside Beijing using techniques that can identify ancient genetic material from an archaeological find even when large quantities of DNA from soil bacteria are present. The authors then reconstructed a genetic profile of the leg's owner, an individual who lived during an important evolutionary transition when early modern humans, who shared certain features with earlier forms such as Neanderthals, were replacing Neanderthals and Denisovans, who later became extinct. The profile reveals that this early modern human was related to the ancestors of many present-day Asians and Native Americans but had already diverged genetically from the ancestors of present-day Europeans. In addition, the Tianyuan individual did not carry a larger proportion of Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA than present-day people in the region. The findings demonstrate that DNA analyses of ancient remains can help reconstruct the spread of early modern humans across Eurasia, according to the authors.


Article #12-21359: "DNA analysis of an early modern human from Tianyuan Cave, China," by Qiaomei Fu et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Svante Pääbo, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, GERMANY; tel: +49-341-3550-501 (day), +49-173-355-1938 (evening); e-mail: paabo@eva.mpg.de

Xing Gao, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, CHINA; tel: +86-10-68354808 (day), +86-13910039221 (evening); email: gaoxing@ivpp.ac.cn

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