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Bibliography on: Paleontology Meets Genomics — Sequencing Ancient DNA

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ESP: PubMed Auto Bibliography 22 Feb 2024 at 01:56 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: 2024-02-20

Rohrlach AB, Rivollat M, de-Miguel-Ibáñez P, et al (2024)

Cases of trisomy 21 and trisomy 18 among historic and prehistoric individuals discovered from ancient DNA.

Nature communications, 15(1):1294.

Aneuploidies, and in particular, trisomies represent the most common genetic aberrations observed in human genetics today. To explore the presence of trisomies in historic and prehistoric populations we screen nearly 10,000 ancient human individuals for the presence of three copies of any of the target autosomes. We find clear genetic evidence for six cases of trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) and one case of trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome), and all cases are present in infant or perinatal burials. We perform comparative osteological examinations of the skeletal remains and find overlapping skeletal markers, many of which are consistent with these syndromes. Interestingly, three cases of trisomy 21, and the case of trisomy 18 were detected in two contemporaneous sites in early Iron Age Spain (800-400 BCE), potentially suggesting a higher frequency of burials of trisomy carriers in those societies. Notably, the care with which the burials were conducted, and the items found with these individuals indicate that ancient societies likely acknowledged these individuals with trisomy 18 and 21 as members of their communities, from the perspective of burial practice.

RevDate: 2024-02-20

Kumar S, Singh PP, Pasupuleti N, et al (2024)

Genetic evidence for a single founding population of the Lakshadweep Islands.

Molecular genetics and genomics : MGG, 299(1):8.

Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands located in the Southeastern Arabian Sea. In the absence of a detailed archaeological record, the human settlement timing of this island is vague. Previous genetic studies on haploid DNA makers suggested sex-biased ancestry linked to North and South Indian populations. Maternal ancestry suggested a closer link with the Southern Indian, while paternal ancestry advocated the Northern Indian genetic affinity. Since the haploid markers are more sensitive to genetic drift, which is evident for the Island populations, we have used the biparental high-resolution single-nucleotide polymorphic markers to reconstruct the population history of Lakshadweep Islands. Using the fine-scaled analyses, we specifically focused on (A) the ancestry components of Lakshadweep Islands populations; (B) their relation with East, West Eurasia and South Asia; (C) the number of founding lineages and (D) the putative migration from Northern India as the paternal ancestry was closer to the North Indian populations. Our analysis of ancestry components confirmed relatively higher North Indian ancestry among the Lakshadweep population. These populations are closely related to the South Asian populations. We identified mainly a single founding population for these Islands, geographically divided into two sub-clusters. By examining the population's genetic composition and analysing the gene flow from different source populations, this study contributes to our understanding of Lakshadweep Island's evolutionary history and population dynamics. These findings shed light on the complex interactions between ethnic groups and their genetic contributions in making the Lakshadweep population.

RevDate: 2024-02-16

Buchwald SZ, Herzschuh U, Nürnberg D, et al (2024)

Plankton community changes during the last 124 000 years in the subarctic Bering Sea derived from sedimentary ancient DNA.

The ISME journal, 18(1):.

Current global warming results in rising sea-water temperatures, and the loss of sea ice in Arctic and subarctic oceans impacts the community composition of primary producers with cascading effects on the food web and potentially on carbon export rates. This study analyzes metagenomic shotgun and diatom rbcL amplicon sequencing data from sedimentary ancient DNA of the subarctic western Bering Sea that records phyto- and zooplankton community changes over the last glacial-interglacial cycles, including the last interglacial period (Eemian). Our data show that interglacial and glacial plankton communities differ, with distinct Eemian and Holocene plankton communities. The generally warm Holocene period is dominated by picosized cyanobacteria and bacteria-feeding heterotrophic protists, while the Eemian period is dominated by eukaryotic picosized chlorophytes and Triparmaceae. By contrast, the glacial period is characterized by microsized phototrophic protists, including sea ice-associated diatoms in the family Bacillariaceae and co-occurring diatom-feeding crustaceous zooplankton. Our deep-time record of plankton community changes reveals a long-term decrease in phytoplankton cell size coeval with increasing temperatures, resembling community changes in the currently warming Bering Sea. The phytoplankton community in the warmer-than-present Eemian period is distinct from modern communities and limits the use of the Eemian as an analog for future climate scenarios. However, under enhanced future warming, the expected shift toward the dominance of small-sized phytoplankton and heterotrophic protists might result in an increased productivity, whereas the community's potential of carbon export will be decreased, thereby weakening the subarctic Bering Sea's function as an effective carbon sink.

RevDate: 2024-02-16

Simon A, G Coop (2024)

The contribution of gene flow, selection, and genetic drift to five thousand years of human allele frequency change.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 121(9):e2312377121.

Genomic time series from experimental evolution studies and ancient DNA datasets offer us a chance to directly observe the interplay of various evolutionary forces. We show how the genome-wide variance in allele frequency change between two time points can be decomposed into the contributions of gene flow, genetic drift, and linked selection. In closed populations, the contribution of linked selection is identifiable because it creates covariances between time intervals, and genetic drift does not. However, repeated gene flow between populations can also produce directionality in allele frequency change, creating covariances. We show how to accurately separate the fraction of variance in allele frequency change due to admixture and linked selection in a population receiving gene flow. We use two human ancient DNA datasets, spanning around 5,000 y, as time transects to quantify the contributions to the genome-wide variance in allele frequency change. We find that a large fraction of genome-wide change is due to gene flow. In both cases, after correcting for known major gene flow events, we do not observe a signal of genome-wide linked selection. Thus despite the known role of selection in shaping long-term polymorphism levels, and an increasing number of examples of strong selection on single loci and polygenic scores from ancient DNA, it appears to be gene flow and drift, and not selection, that are the main determinants of recent genome-wide allele frequency change. Our approach should be applicable to the growing number of contemporary and ancient temporal population genomics datasets.

RevDate: 2024-02-16

Taylor GM, White-Iribhogbe K, Cole G, et al (2024)

Bioarchaeological investigation of individuals with suspected multibacillary leprosy from the mediaeval leprosarium of St Mary Magdalen, Winchester, Hampshire, UK.

Journal of medical microbiology, 73(2):.

Introduction. We have examined four burials from the St Mary Magdalen mediaeval leprosarium cemetery in Winchester, Hampshire, UK. One (Sk.8) was a male child, two (Sk.45 and Sk.52) were adolescent females and the fourth (Sk.512) was an adult male. The cemetery was in use between the 10th and 12th centuries. All showed skeletal lesions of leprosy. Additionally, one of the two females (Sk.45) had lesions suggestive of multi-cystic tuberculosis and the second (Sk.52) of leprogenic odontodysplasia (LO), a rare malformation of the roots of the permanent maxillary incisors.Gap statement. Relatively little is known of the manifestations of lepromatous leprosy (LL) in younger individuals from the archaeological record.Aims and Methodology. To address this, we have used ancient DNA testing and osteological examination of the individuals, supplemented with X-ray and microcomputed tomography (micro-CT) scan as necessary to assess the disease status.Results and Conclusions. The presence of Mycobacterium leprae DNA was confirmed in both females, and genotyping showed SNP type 3I-1 strains but with a clear genotypic variation. We could not confirm Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex DNA in the female individual SK.45. High levels of M. leprae DNA were found within the pulp cavities of four maxillary teeth from the male child (Sk.8) with LO, consistent with the theory that the replication of M. leprae in alveolar bone may interfere with root formation at key stages of development. We report our biomolecular findings in these individuals and review the evidence this site has contributed to our knowledge of mediaeval leprosy.

RevDate: 2024-02-15
CmpDate: 2024-02-15

Mylopotamitaki D, Weiss M, Fewlass H, et al (2024)

Homo sapiens reached the higher latitudes of Europe by 45,000 years ago.

Nature, 626(7998):341-346.

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe is associated with the regional disappearance of Neanderthals and the spread of Homo sapiens. Late Neanderthals persisted in western Europe several millennia after the occurrence of H. sapiens in eastern Europe[1]. Local hybridization between the two groups occurred[2], but not on all occasions[3]. Archaeological evidence also indicates the presence of several technocomplexes during this transition, complicating our understanding and the association of behavioural adaptations with specific hominin groups[4]. One such technocomplex for which the makers are unknown is the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ), which has been described in northwestern and central Europe[5-8]. Here we present the morphological and proteomic taxonomic identification, mitochondrial DNA analysis and direct radiocarbon dating of human remains directly associated with an LRJ assemblage at the site Ilsenhöhle in Ranis (Germany). These human remains are among the earliest directly dated Upper Palaeolithic H. sapiens remains in Eurasia. We show that early H. sapiens associated with the LRJ were present in central and northwestern Europe long before the extinction of late Neanderthals in southwestern Europe. Our results strengthen the notion of a patchwork of distinct human populations and technocomplexes present in Europe during this transitional period.

RevDate: 2024-02-14

Laffranchi Z, Zingale S, Tecchiati U, et al (2024)

"Until death do us part". A multidisciplinary study on human- Animal co- burials from the Late Iron Age necropolis of Seminario Vescovile in Verona (Northern Italy, 3rd-1st c. BCE).

PloS one, 19(2):e0293434 pii:PONE-D-23-21197.

Animal remains are a common find in prehistoric and protohistoric funerary contexts. While taphonomic and osteological data provide insights about the proximate (depositional) factors responsible for these findings, the ultimate cultural causes leading to this observed mortuary behavior are obscured by the opacity of the archaeological record and the lack of written sources. Here, we apply an interdisciplinary suite of analytical approaches (zooarchaeological, anthropological, archaeological, paleogenetic, and isotopic) to explore the funerary deposition of animal remains and the nature of joint human-animal burials at Seminario Vescovile (Verona, Northern Italy 3rd-1st c. BCE). This context, culturally attributed to the Cenomane culture, features 161 inhumations, of which only 16 included animal remains in the form of full skeletons, isolated skeletal parts, or food offerings. Of these, four are of particular interest as they contain either horses (Equus caballus) or dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)-animals that did not play a dietary role. Analyses show no demographic, dietary, funerary similarities, or genetic relatedness between individuals buried with animals. Isotopic data from two analyzed dogs suggest differing management strategies for these animals, possibly linked to economic and/or ritual factors. Overall, our results point to the unsuitability of simple, straightforward explanations for the observed funerary variability. At the same time, they connect the evidence from Seminario Vescovile with documented Transalpine cultural traditions possibly influenced by local and Roman customs.

RevDate: 2024-02-13

Laine J, Mak SST, Martins NFG, et al (2024)

Late Pleistocene stickleback environmental genomes reveal the chronology of freshwater adaptation.

Current biology : CB pii:S0960-9822(24)00093-9 [Epub ahead of print].

Directly observing the chronology and tempo of adaptation in response to ecological change is rarely possible in natural ecosystems. Sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) has been shown to be a tractable source of genome-scale data of long-dead organisms[1][,][2][,][3] and to thereby potentially provide an understanding of the evolutionary histories of past populations.[4][,][5] To date, time series of ecosystem biodiversity have been reconstructed from sedaDNA, typically using DNA metabarcoding or shotgun sequence data generated from less than 1 g of sediment.[6][,][7] Here, we maximize sequence coverage by extracting DNA from ∼50× more sediment per sample than the majority of previous studies[1][,][2][,][3] to achieve genotype resolution. From a time series of Late Pleistocene sediments spanning from a marine to freshwater ecosystem, we compare adaptive genotypes reconstructed from the environmental genomes of three-spined stickleback at key time points of this transition. We find a staggered temporal dynamic in which freshwater alleles at known loci of large effect in marine-freshwater divergence of three-spined stickleback (e.g., EDA)[8] were already established during the brackish phase of the formation of the isolation basin. However, marine alleles were still detected across the majority of marine-freshwater divergence-associated loci, even after the complete isolation of the lake from marine ingression. Our retrospective approach to studying adaptation from environmental genomes of three-spined sticklebacks at the end of the last glacial period complements contemporary experimental approaches[9][,][10][,][11] and highlights the untapped potential for retrospective "evolve and resequence" natural experiments using sedaDNA.

RevDate: 2024-02-13

Vincenti G, Molinaro L, Sajjadi SMS, et al (2024)

Female biased adult sex ratio in the Bronze Age cemetery of Shahr-i Sokhta (Iran) as an indicator of long distance trade and matrilocality.

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

OBJECTIVES: This paper starts from the unusual observation of the overrepresentation of females among adults in the cemetery of Bronze Age Shahr-i Sokhta (Seistan, Iran) and explores the post marital residence pattern. By integrating taphonomical (skeletal preservation), anthropological (sex ratio [SR], sexual dimorphism, stress indicators, age at death), archeological (long distance trade indicators, habitation floor area, social role of women), and ancient DNA (heterozygosity levels in X chromosomes) data we test the hypothesis of post marital matrilocality in the site.

METHODS: We computed the SR (pelvis-based sex determination) in a random unpublished adult sample from the cemetery of Shahr-i Sokhta and in two samples previously published by other authors. We used comparative data on SR from: a large Supra Regional multi-chronological sample of sites, n = 47, with 8808 adult sexed individuals, from Southern Europe, Egypt, Middle East, Southern Russia; a Regional Bronze Age sample of sites (n = 10) from Bactria Margiana and Indus Valley with 1324 adult sexed individuals. We estimated the heterozygosity levels in X chromosomes compared with the rest of the autosomes on the assumption that in a matrilocal society females should show lower variability than men.

RESULTS: Adult SR in a sample (n = 549) from Shahr-i Sokhta is 70.5, the overrepresentation of females is shared with Regional Bronze Age sites from Bactria Margiana (SR = 72.09) and Indus Valley (SR = 67.54). On the contrary, in a larger Supra Regional multi-chronological sample of sites, mean SR ranges between 112.7 (Bronze Age) and 163.1 (Middle Ages). Taphonomical and anthropological indicators do not explain the overrepresentation of female skeletons. Archeological indicators suggest a high social status of women and that the society was devoted to long range trade activities. heterozygosity levels in X chromosomes are in agreement with a matrilocal society.

CONCLUSIONS: Indicators suggest that Bronze Age Shahr-ì Sokhta was a matrilocal society and that long distance trade was an important economic factor producing an overrepresentation of adult female skeletons in the cemetery.

RevDate: 2024-02-10

Mallick S, Micco A, Mah M, et al (2024)

The Allen Ancient DNA Resource (AADR) a curated compendium of ancient human genomes.

Scientific data, 11(1):182.

More than two hundred papers have reported genome-wide data from ancient humans. While the raw data for the vast majority are fully publicly available testifying to the commitment of the paleogenomics community to open data, formats for both raw data and meta-data differ. There is thus a need for uniform curation and a centralized, version-controlled compendium that researchers can download, analyze, and reference. Since 2019, we have been maintaining the Allen Ancient DNA Resource (AADR), which aims to provide an up-to-date, curated version of the world's published ancient human DNA data, represented at more than a million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at which almost all ancient individuals have been assayed. The AADR has gone through six public releases at the time of writing and review of this manuscript, and crossed the threshold of >10,000 individuals with published genome-wide ancient DNA data at the end of 2022. This note is intended as a citable descriptor of the AADR.

RevDate: 2024-02-03

Navarro-Romero MT, Muñoz ML, Krause-Kyora B, et al (2024)

Bioanthropological analysis of human remains from the archaic and classic period discovered in Puyil cave, Mexico.

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

OBJECTIVES: Determine the geographic place of origin and maternal lineage of prehistoric human skeletal remains discovered in Puyil Cave, Tabasco State, Mexico, located in a region currently populated by Olmec, Zoque and Maya populations.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: All specimens were radiocarbon ([14] C) dated (beta analytic), had dental modifications classified, and had an analysis of 13 homologous reference points conducted to evaluate artificial cranial deformation (ACD). Following DNA purification, hypervariable region I (HVR-1) of the mitogenome was amplified and Sanger sequenced. Finally, Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) was performed for total DNA. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variants and haplogroups were determined using BioEdit 7.2 and IGV software and confirmed with MITOMASTER and WebHome softwares.

RESULTS: Radiocarbon dating ([14] C) demonstrated that the inhabitants of Puyil Cave lived during the Archaic and Classic Periods and displayed tabular oblique and tabular mimetic ACD. These pre-Hispanic remains exhibited five mtDNA lineages: A, A2, C1, C1c and D4. Network analysis revealed a close genetic affinity between pre-Hispanic Puyil Cave inhabitants and contemporary Maya subpopulations from Mexico and Guatemala, as well as individuals from Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and China.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results elucidate the dispersal of pre-Hispanic Olmec and Maya ancestors and suggest that ACD practices are closely related to Olmec and Maya practices. Additionally, we conclude that ACD has likely been practiced in the region since the Middle-Archaic Period.

RevDate: 2024-02-01

Petrić Howe N, S Bundell (2024)

Ancient DNA solves the mystery of who made a set of stone tools.

RevDate: 2024-01-30

Fiorin E, Roberts CA, Baldoni M, et al (2024)

First archaeological evidence for ginger consumption as a potential medicinal ingredient in a late medieval leprosarium at St Leonard, Peterborough, England.

Scientific reports, 14(1):2452.

Leprosy was one of the most outwardly visible diseases in the European Middle Ages, a period during which leprosaria were founded to provide space for the sick. The extant documentary evidence for leprosy hospitals, especially in relation to diet, therapeutic, and medical care, is limited. However, human dental calculus stands to be an important source of information as it provides insight into the substances people were exposed to and accumulated in their bodies during their lives. In the present study, microremains and DNA were analysed from the calculus of individuals buried in the late medieval cemetery of St Leonard, a leprosarium located in Peterborough, England. The results show the presence of ginger (Zingiber officinale), a culinary and medicinal ingredient, as well as evidence of consumption of cereals and legumes. This research suggests that affected individuals consumed ingredients mentioned in medieval medical textbooks that were used to treat regions of the body typically impacted by leprosy. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first study which has identified Zingiber officinale in human dental calculus in England or on the wider European continent.

RevDate: 2024-01-30

Antonio ML, Weiß CL, Gao Z, et al (2024)

Stable population structure in Europe since the Iron Age, despite high mobility.

eLife, 13: pii:79714.

Ancient DNA research in the past decade has revealed that European population structure changed dramatically in the prehistoric period (14,000-3000 years before present, YBP), reflecting the widespread introduction of Neolithic farmer and Bronze Age Steppe ancestries. However, little is known about how population structure changed from the historical period onward (3000 YBP - present). To address this, we collected whole genomes from 204 individuals from Europe and the Mediterranean, many of which are the first historical period genomes from their region (e.g. Armenia and France). We found that most regions show remarkable inter-individual heterogeneity. At least 7% of historical individuals carry ancestry uncommon in the region where they were sampled, some indicating cross-Mediterranean contacts. Despite this high level of mobility, overall population structure across western Eurasia is relatively stable through the historical period up to the present, mirroring geography. We show that, under standard population genetics models with local panmixia, the observed level of dispersal would lead to a collapse of population structure. Persistent population structure thus suggests a lower effective migration rate than indicated by the observed dispersal. We hypothesize that this phenomenon can be explained by extensive transient dispersal arising from drastically improved transportation networks and the Roman Empire's mobilization of people for trade, labor, and military. This work highlights the utility of ancient DNA in elucidating finer scale human population dynamics in recent history.

RevDate: 2024-01-30

Lei H, Li J, Zhao B, et al (2024)

Evolutionary origin of germline pathogenic variants in human DNA mismatch repair genes.

Human genomics, 18(1):5.

BACKGROUND: Mismatch repair (MMR) system is evolutionarily conserved for genome stability maintenance. Germline pathogenic variants (PVs) in MMR genes that lead to MMR functional deficiency are associated with high cancer risk. Knowing the evolutionary origin of germline PVs in human MMR genes will facilitate understanding the biological base of MMR deficiency in cancer. However, systematic knowledge is lacking to address the issue. In this study, we performed a comprehensive analysis to know the evolutionary origin of human MMR PVs.

METHODS: We retrieved MMR gene variants from the ClinVar database. The genomes of 100 vertebrates were collected from the UCSC genome browser and ancient human sequencing data were obtained through comprehensive data mining. Cross-species conservation analysis was performed based on the phylogenetic relationship among 100 vertebrates. Rescaled ancient sequencing data were used to perform variant calling for archeological analysis.

RESULTS: Using the phylogenetic approach, we traced the 3369 MMR PVs identified in modern humans in 99 non-human vertebrate genomes but found no evidence for cross-species conservation as the source for human MMR PVs. Using the archeological approach, we searched the human MMR PVs in over 5000 ancient human genomes dated from 45,045 to 100 years before present and identified a group of MMR PVs shared between modern and ancient humans mostly within 10,000 years with similar quantitative patterns.

CONCLUSION: Our study reveals that MMR PVs in modern humans were arisen within the recent human evolutionary history.

RevDate: 2024-01-29

Śledziński ŁJ, Zamerska A, Jędrychowska-Dańska K, et al (2024)

Suggested mechanism of CCR5Δ32, CCR2-64I and SDF 1-3'A allele frequency change in Polish and Lithuanian gene pools from the perspective of passing time.

Anthropologischer Anzeiger; Bericht uber die biologisch-anthropologische Literatur [Epub ahead of print].

The study aimed to determine the frequency of the alleles associated with hereditary immune response in 16 historical populations and assess which evolutionary forces may have contributed to the observed frequency fluctuation. The analysed polymorphic sites are located in three genes - CCR5, CCR2 and SDF 1 (CXCL12). Protein products are involved in the innate immune response and are also involved in various types of infections, autoimmune diseases and tumours. The frequency of the alleles found in the DNA of the studied individuals was determined by the Sanger methodology and was compared with the data obtained for modern populations. To confirm the authenticity of the obtained results, mtDNA HVRI haplotypes of all the studied samples were obtained and compared with the genetic database of the laboratory personnel who came into contact with the studied material. Based on the variability of allele frequency, advanced biostatistical analysis was used to distinguish the effect of natural selection from genetic drift, i.e. the forces operating on the polymorphic sites studied. All procedures were performed according to the guidelines for working with ancient DNA to avoid contamination with modern DNA molecules. 681 samples from 39 archaeological sites in Poland and Lithuania dated to the 40[th] century BC and the 19[th] century were studied. The biostatistical analysis showed that the fluctuations in the frequency of CCR5Δ32 in the analysed time interval could be mainly the effect of genetic drift. Nevertheless, for CCR2-64I and SDF 1-3'A, the results confirm the suggestion of negative selection as the mechanism involved. Since all the polymorphic sites encode the elements of innate immune response that are indirectly associated with the process of an HPV infection and the development of cervical cancer, the human papillomavirus may be a good candidate for a selection coefficient affecting the frequency of CCR2-64I and SDF 1-3'A. However, for CCR5Δ32, selection was not detected despite its proven role in the molecular mechanism involved in the response to an HPV infection. The presented work seems to be the first in which the problem of the pattern of CCR5Δ32, CCR2-64I and SDF 1-3'A frequency fluctuations in a temporal perspective was discussed, proposing HPV as a factor influencing the occurrence of the CCR2 and SDF1 alleles.

RevDate: 2024-01-27

Kellner FL, Le Moullec M, Ellegaard MR, et al (2024)

A palaeogenomic investigation of overharvest implications in an endemic wild reindeer subspecies.

Molecular ecology [Epub ahead of print].

Overharvest can severely reduce the abundance and distribution of a species and thereby impact its genetic diversity and threaten its future viability. Overharvest remains an ongoing issue for Arctic mammals, which due to climate change now also confront one of the fastest changing environments on Earth. The high-arctic Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus), endemic to Svalbard, experienced a harvest-induced demographic bottleneck that occurred during the 17-20th centuries. Here, we investigate changes in genetic diversity, population structure, and gene-specific differentiation during and after this overharvesting event. Using whole-genome shotgun sequencing, we generated the first ancient and historical nuclear (n = 11) and mitochondrial (n = 18) genomes from Svalbard reindeer (up to 4000 BP) and integrated these data with a large collection of modern genome sequences (n = 90) to infer temporal changes. We show that hunting resulted in major genetic changes and restructuring in reindeer populations. Near-extirpation followed by pronounced genetic drift has altered the allele frequencies of important genes contributing to diverse biological functions. Median heterozygosity was reduced by 26%, while the mitochondrial genetic diversity was reduced only to a limited extent, likely due to already low pre-harvest diversity and a complex post-harvest recolonization process. Such genomic erosion and genetic isolation of populations due to past anthropogenic disturbance will likely play a major role in metapopulation dynamics (i.e., extirpation, recolonization) under further climate change. Our results from a high-arctic case study therefore emphasize the need to understand the long-term interplay of past, current, and future stressors in wildlife conservation.

RevDate: 2024-01-26

Wurst C, Maixner F, Paladin A, et al (2024)

Genetic Predisposition of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease in Ancient Human Remains.

Annals of global health, 90(1):6.

BACKGROUND: Several computed tomographic studies have shown the presence of atherosclerosis in ancient human remains. However, while it is important to understand the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), genetic data concerning the prevalence of the disease-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in our ancestors are scarce.

OBJECTIVE: For a better understanding of the role of genetics in the evolution of ASCVD, we applied an enrichment capture sequencing approach to mummified human remains from different geographic regions and time periods.

METHODS: Twenty-two mummified individuals were analyzed for their genetic predisposition of ASCVD. Next-generation sequencing methods were applied to ancient DNA (aDNA) samples, including a novel enrichment approach specifically designed to capture SNPs associated with ASCVD in genome-wide association studies of modern humans.

FINDINGS: Five out of 22 ancient individuals passed all filter steps for calculating a weighted polygenic risk score (PRS) based on 87 SNPs in 56 genes. PRSs were correlated to scores obtained from contemporary people from around the world and cover their complete range. The genetic results of the ancient individuals reflect their phenotypic results, given that the only two mummies showing calcified atherosclerotic arterial plaques on computed tomography scans are the ones exhibiting the highest calculated PRSs.

CONCLUSIONS: These data show that alleles associated with ASCVD have been widespread for at least 5,000 years. Despite some limitations due to the nature of aDNA, our approach has the potential to lead to a better understanding of the interaction between environmental and genetic influences on the development of ASCVD.

RevDate: 2024-01-24

Majander K, Pla-Díaz M, du Plessis L, et al (2024)

Redefining the treponemal history through pre-Columbian genomes from Brazil.

Nature [Epub ahead of print].

The origins of treponemal diseases have long remained unknown, especially considering the sudden onset of the first syphilis epidemic in the late 15th century in Europe and its hypothesized arrival from the Americas with Columbus' expeditions[1,2]. Recently, ancient DNA evidence has revealed various treponemal infections circulating in early modern Europe and colonial-era Mexico[3-6]. However, there has been to our knowledge no genomic evidence of treponematosis recovered from either the Americas or the Old World that can be reliably dated to the time before the first trans-Atlantic contacts. Here, we present treponemal genomes from nearly 2,000-year-old human remains from Brazil. We reconstruct four ancient genomes of a prehistoric treponemal pathogen, most closely related to the bejel-causing agent Treponema pallidum endemicum. Contradicting the modern day geographical niche of bejel in the arid regions of the world, the results call into question the previous palaeopathological characterization of treponeme subspecies and showcase their adaptive potential. A high-coverage genome is used to improve molecular clock date estimations, placing the divergence of modern T. pallidum subspecies firmly in pre-Columbian times. Overall, our study demonstrates the opportunities within archaeogenetics to uncover key events in pathogen evolution and emergence, paving the way to new hypotheses on the origin and spread of treponematoses.

RevDate: 2024-01-24

Delezene LK, Scott JE, Irish JD, et al (2024)

Sex-biased sampling may influence Homo naledi tooth size variation.

Journal of human evolution, 187:103490 pii:S0047-2484(23)00169-0 [Epub ahead of print].

A frequent source of debate in paleoanthropology concerns the taxonomic unity of fossil assemblages, with many hominin samples exhibiting elevated levels of variation that can be interpreted as indicating the presence of multiple species. By contrast, the large assemblage of hominin fossils from the Rising Star cave system, assigned to Homo naledi, exhibits a remarkably low degree of variation for most skeletal elements. Many factors can contribute to low sample variation, including genetic drift, strong natural selection, biased sex ratios, and sampling of closely related individuals. In this study, we tested for potential sex-biased sampling in the Rising Star dental sample. We compared coefficients of variation for the H. naledi teeth to those for eight extant hominoid samples. We used a resampling procedure that generated samples from the extant taxa that matched the sample size of the fossil sample for each possible Rising Star dental sex ratio. We found that variation at four H. naledi tooth positions-I2, M1, P[4], M1-is so low that the possibility that one sex is represented by few or no individuals in the sample cannot be excluded. Additional evidence is needed to corroborate this inference, such as ancient DNA or enamel proteome data, and our study design does not address other potential factors that would account for low sample variation. Nevertheless, our results highlight the importance of considering the taphonomic history of a hominin assemblage and suggest that sex-biased sampling is a plausible explanation for the low level of phenotypic variation found in some aspects of the current H. naledi assemblage.

RevDate: 2024-01-23

Barouch A, Mathov Y, Meshorer E, et al (2024)

Reconstructing DNA methylation maps of ancient populations.

Nucleic acids research pii:7585666 [Epub ahead of print].

Studying premortem DNA methylation from ancient DNA (aDNA) provides a proxy for ancient gene activity patterns, and hence valuable information on evolutionary changes in gene regulation. Due to statistical limitations, current methods to reconstruct aDNA methylation maps are constrained to high-coverage shotgun samples, which comprise a small minority of available ancient samples. Most samples are sequenced using in-situ hybridization capture sequencing which targets a predefined set of genomic positions. Here, we develop methods to reconstruct aDNA methylation maps of samples that were not sequenced using high-coverage shotgun sequencing, by way of pooling together individuals to obtain a DNA methylation map that is characteristic of a population. We show that the resulting DNA methylation maps capture meaningful biological information and allow for the detection of differential methylation across populations. We offer guidelines on how to carry out comparative studies involving ancient populations, and how to control the rate of falsely discovered differentially methylated regions. The ability to reconstruct DNA methylation maps of past populations allows for the development of a whole new frontier in paleoepigenetic research, tracing DNA methylation changes throughout human history, using data from thousands of ancient samples.

RevDate: 2024-01-23

Bennasar-Figueras A (2024)

The Natural and Clinical History of Plague: From the Ancient Pandemics to Modern Insights.

Microorganisms, 12(1): pii:microorganisms12010146.

The human pathogen Yersinia pestis is responsible for bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic plague. A deeply comprehensive overview of its historical context, bacteriological characteristics, genomic analysis based on ancient DNA (aDNA) and modern strains, and its impact on historical and actual human populations, is explored. The results from multiple studies have been synthesized to investigate the origins of plague, its transmission, and effects on different populations. Additionally, molecular interactions of Y. pestis, from its evolutionary origins to its adaptation to flea-born transmission, and its impact on human and wild populations are considered. The characteristic combinations of aDNA patterns, which plays a decisive role in the reconstruction and analysis of ancient genomes, are reviewed. Bioinformatics is fundamental in identifying specific Y. pestis lineages, and automated pipelines are among the valuable tools in implementing such studies. Plague, which remains among human history's most lethal infectious diseases, but also other zoonotic diseases, requires the continuous investigation of plague topics. This can be achieved by improving molecular and genetic screening of animal populations, identifying ecological and social determinants of outbreaks, increasing interdisciplinary collaborations among scientists and public healthcare providers, and continued research into the characterization, diagnosis, and treatment of these diseases.

RevDate: 2024-01-22

Zhang M, Wang CH, Zheng YX, et al (2024)

Ancient DNA unravels species identification from Laosicheng site, Hunan Province, China, and provides insights into maternal genetic history of East Asian leopards.

Zoological research, 45(1):226-229.

RevDate: 2024-01-18

Kırdök E, Kashuba N, Damlien H, et al (2024)

Metagenomic analysis of Mesolithic chewed pitch reveals poor oral health among stone age individuals.

Scientific reports, 13(1):22125.

Prehistoric chewed pitch has proven to be a useful source of ancient DNA, both from humans and their microbiomes. Here we present the metagenomic analysis of three pieces of chewed pitch from Huseby Klev, Sweden, that were dated to 9,890-9,540 before present. The metagenomic profile exposes a Mesolithic oral microbiome that includes opportunistic oral pathogens. We compared the data with healthy and dysbiotic microbiome datasets and we identified increased abundance of periodontitis-associated microbes. In addition, trained machine learning models predicted dysbiosis with 70-80% probability. Moreover, we identified DNA sequences from eukaryotic species such as red fox, hazelnut, red deer and apple. Our results indicate a case of poor oral health during the Scandinavian Mesolithic, and show that pitch pieces have the potential to provide information on material use, diet and oral health.

RevDate: 2024-01-17

Budaeva N, Agne S, Ribeiro PA, et al (2024)

Wide-spread dispersal in a deep-sea brooding polychaete: the role of natural history collections in assessing the distribution in quill worms (Onuphidae, Annelida).

Frontiers in zoology, 21(1):1.

BACKGROUND: Modern integrative taxonomy-based annelid species descriptions are detailed combining morphological data and, since the last decades, also molecular information. Historic species descriptions are often comparatively brief lacking such detail. Adoptions of species names from western literature in the past led to the assumption of cosmopolitan ranges for many species, which, in many cases, were later found to include cryptic or pseudocryptic lineages with subtle morphological differences. Natural history collections and databases can aid in assessing the geographic ranges of species but depend on correct species identification. Obtaining DNA sequence information from wet-collection museum specimens of marine annelids is often impeded by the use of formaldehyde and/or long-term storage in ethanol resulting in DNA degradation and cross-linking.

RESULTS: The application of ancient DNA extraction methodology in combination with single-stranded DNA library preparation and target gene capture resulted in successful sequencing of a 110-year-old collection specimen of quill worms. Furthermore, a 40-year-old specimen of quill worms was successfully sequenced using a standard extraction protocol for modern samples, PCR and Sanger sequencing. Our study presents the first molecular analysis of Hyalinoecia species including the previously known species Hyalinoecia robusta, H. tubicloa, H. artifex, and H. longibranchiata, and a potentially undescribed species from equatorial western Africa morphologically indistinguishable from H. tubicola. The study also investigates the distribution of these five Hyalinoecia species. Reassessing the distribution of H. robusta reveals a geographical range covering both the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans as indicated by molecular data obtained from recent and historical specimens.

CONCLUSION: Our results represent an example of a very wide geographical distribution of a brooding deep-sea annelid with a complex reproduction strategy and seemingly very limited dispersal capacity of its offspring, and highlights the importance of molecular information from museum specimens for integrative annelid taxonomy and biogeography.

RevDate: 2024-01-17

Rowe AG, Bataille CP, Baleka S, et al (2024)

A female woolly mammoth's lifetime movements end in an ancient Alaskan hunter-gatherer camp.

Science advances, 10(3):eadk0818.

Woolly mammoths in mainland Alaska overlapped with the region's first people for at least a millennium. However, it is unclear how mammoths used the space shared with people. Here, we use detailed isotopic analyses of a female mammoth tusk found in a 14,000-year-old archaeological site to show that she moved ~1000 kilometers from northwestern Canada to inhabit an area with the highest density of early archaeological sites in interior Alaska until her death. DNA from the tusk and other local contemporaneous archaeological mammoth remains revealed that multiple mammoth herds congregated in this region. Early Alaskans seem to have structured their settlements partly based on mammoth prevalence and made use of mammoths for raw materials and likely food.

RevDate: 2024-01-16

Grasso G, Bianciotto V, R Marmeisse (2024)

Paleomicrobiology: Tracking the past microbial life from single species to entire microbial communities.

Microbial biotechnology [Epub ahead of print].

By deciphering information encoded in degraded ancient DNA extracted from up to million-years-old samples, molecular paleomicrobiology enables to objectively retrace the temporal evolution of microbial species and communities. Assembly of full-length genomes of ancient pathogen lineages allows not only to follow historical epidemics in space and time but also to identify the acquisition of genetic features that represent landmarks in the evolution of the host-microbe interaction. Analysis of microbial community DNA extracted from essentially human paleo-artefacts (paleofeces, dental calculi) evaluates the relative contribution of diet, lifestyle and geography on the taxonomic and functional diversity of these guilds in which have been identified species that may have gone extinct in today's human microbiome. As for non-host-associated environmental samples, such as stratified sediment cores, analysis of their DNA illustrates how and at which pace microbial communities are affected by local or widespread environmental disturbance. Description of pre-disturbance microbial diversity patterns can aid in evaluating the relevance and effectiveness of remediation policies. We finally discuss how recent achievements in paleomicrobiology could contribute to microbial biotechnology in the fields of medical microbiology and food science to trace the domestication of microorganisms used in food processing or to illustrate the historic evolution of food processing microbial consortia.

RevDate: 2024-01-12

Wong C (2024)

Ancient DNA reveals first known case of sex-development disorder.

RevDate: 2024-01-12

Borodko DD, Zhenilo SV, FS Sharko (2023)

Search for differentially methylated regions in ancient and modern genomes.

Vavilovskii zhurnal genetiki i selektsii, 27(7):820-828.

Currently, active research is focused on investigating the mechanisms that regulate the development of various pathologies and their evolutionary dynamics. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, play a significant role in evolutionary processes, as their changes have a faster impact on the phenotype compared to mutagenesis. In this study, we attempted to develop an algorithm for identifying differentially methylated regions associated with metabolic syndrome, which have undergone methylation changes in humans during the transition from a hunter-gatherer to a sedentary lifestyle. The application of existing whole-genome bisulfite sequencing methods is limited for ancient samples due to their low quality and fragmentation, and the approach to obtaining DNA methylation profiles differs significantly between ancient hunter-gatherer samples and modern tissues. In this study, we validated DamMet, an algorithm for reconstructing ancient methylomes. Application of DamMet to Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes showed a moderate level of correlation with previously published methylation profiles and demonstrated an underestimation of methylation levels in the reconstructed profiles by an average of 15-20 %. Additionally, we developed a new Python-based algorithm that allows for the comparison of methylomes in ancient and modern samples, despite the absence of methylation profiles in modern bone tissue within the context of obesity. This analysis involves a two-step data processing approach, where the first step involves the identification and filtration of tissue-specific methylation regions, and the second step focuses on the direct search for differentially methylated regions in specific areas associated with the researcher's target condition. By applying this algorithm to test data, we identified 38 differentially methylated regions associated with obesity, the majority of which were located in promoter regions. The pipeline demonstrated sufficient efficiency in detecting these regions. These results confirm the feasibility of reconstructing DNA methylation profiles in ancient samples and comparing them with modern methylomes. Furthermore, possibilities for further methodological development and the implementation of a new step for studying differentially methylated positions associated with evolutionary processes are discussed.

RevDate: 2024-01-11

Anastasiadou K, Silva M, Booth T, et al (2024)

Detection of chromosomal aneuploidy in ancient genomes.

Communications biology, 7(1):14.

Ancient DNA is a valuable tool for investigating genetic and evolutionary history that can also provide detailed profiles of the lives of ancient individuals. In this study, we develop a generalised computational approach to detect aneuploidies (atypical autosomal and sex chromosome karyotypes) in the ancient genetic record and distinguish such karyotypes from contamination. We confirm that aneuploidies can be detected even in low-coverage genomes (~ 0.0001-fold), common in ancient DNA. We apply this method to ancient skeletal remains from Britain to document the first instance of mosaic Turner syndrome (45,X0/46,XX) in the ancient genetic record in an Iron Age individual sequenced to average 9-fold coverage, the earliest known incidence of an individual with a 47,XYY karyotype from the Early Medieval period, as well as individuals with Klinefelter (47,XXY) and Down syndrome (47,XY, + 21). Overall, our approach provides an accessible and automated framework allowing for the detection of individuals with aneuploidies, which extends previous binary approaches. This tool can facilitate the interpretation of burial context and living conditions, as well as elucidate past perceptions of biological sex and people with diverse biological traits.

RevDate: 2024-01-11

Curry A (2024)

Ancient DNA ties modern diseases to ancestry.

Science (New York, N.Y.), 383(6679):138-139.

Among Europeans, risk of multiple sclerosis rises with genes from Bronze Age Yamnaya herders.

RevDate: 2024-01-10

Barrie W, Yang Y, Irving-Pease EK, et al (2024)

Elevated genetic risk for multiple sclerosis emerged in steppe pastoralist populations.

Nature, 625(7994):321-328.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neuro-inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease that is most prevalent in Northern Europe. Although it is known that inherited risk for MS is located within or in close proximity to immune-related genes, it is unknown when, where and how this genetic risk originated[1]. Here, by using a large ancient genome dataset from the Mesolithic period to the Bronze Age[2], along with new Medieval and post-Medieval genomes, we show that the genetic risk for MS rose among pastoralists from the Pontic steppe and was brought into Europe by the Yamnaya-related migration approximately 5,000 years ago. We further show that these MS-associated immunogenetic variants underwent positive selection both within the steppe population and later in Europe, probably driven by pathogenic challenges coinciding with changes in diet, lifestyle and population density. This study highlights the critical importance of the Neolithic period and Bronze Age as determinants of modern immune responses and their subsequent effect on the risk of developing MS in a changing environment.

RevDate: 2024-01-10

Reardon S (2024)

Ancient DNA reveals origins of multiple sclerosis in Europe.

RevDate: 2024-01-10

Scaggion C, Marinato M, Dal Sasso G, et al (2024)

A fresh perspective on infrared spectroscopy as a prescreening method for molecular and stable isotopes analyses on ancient human bones.

Scientific reports, 14(1):1028.

Following the development of modern genome sequencing technologies, the investigation of museum osteological finds is increasingly informative and popular. Viable protocols to help preserve these collections from exceedingly invasive analyses, would allow greater access to the specimens for scientific research. The main aim of this work is to survey skeletal tissues, specifically petrous bones and roots of teeth, using infrared spectroscopy as a prescreening method to assess the bone quality for molecular analyses. This approach could overcome the major problem of identifying useful genetic material in archaeological bone collections without resorting to demanding, time consuming and expensive laboratory studies. A minimally invasive sampling of archaeological bones was developed and bone structural and compositional changes were examined, linking isotopic and genetic data to infrared spectra. The predictive model based on Infrared parameters is effective in determining the occurrence of ancient DNA (aDNA); however, the quality/quantity of aDNA cannot be determined because of the influence of environmental and local factors experienced by the examined bones during the burial period.

RevDate: 2024-01-09

Bellwood P (2024)

Archaeogenetics: Tracing ancient migrations from the Yellow River.

Current biology : CB, 34(1):R18-R20.

Migration from the Yellow River homeland of Sino-Tibetan languages and people has impacted humans in East Asia for more than 6,000 years. A new study of ancient DNA from southwest China reveals an important component of this migration history.

RevDate: 2024-01-08

Lammers Y, Taberlet P, Coissac E, et al (2024)

Multiplexing PCR allows the identification of within-species genetic diversity in ancient eDNA.

Molecular ecology resources [Epub ahead of print].

Sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) has rarely been used to obtain population-level data due to either a lack of taxonomic resolution for the molecular method used, limitations in the reference material or inefficient methods. Here, we present the potential of multiplexing different PCR primers to retrieve population-level genetic data from sedaDNA samples. Vaccinium uliginosum (Ericaceae) is a widespread species with a circumpolar distribution and three lineages in present-day populations. We searched 18 plastid genomes for intraspecific variable regions and developed 61 primer sets to target these. Initial multiplex PCR testing resulted in a final set of 38 primer sets. These primer sets were used to analyse 20 lake sedaDNA samples (11,200 cal. yr BP to present) from five different localities in northern Norway, the Alps and the Polar Urals. All known V. uliginosum lineages in these regions and all primer sets could be recovered from the sedaDNA data. For each sample on average 28.1 primer sets, representing 34.15 sequence variants, were recovered. All sediment samples were dominated by a single lineage, except three Alpine samples which had co-occurrence of two different lineages. Furthermore, lineage turnover was observed in the Alps and northern Norway, suggesting that present-day phylogeographical studies may overlook past genetic patterns. Multiplexing primer is a promising tool for generating population-level genetic information from sedaDNA. The relatively simple method, combined with high sensitivity, provides a scalable method which will allow researchers to track populations through time and space using environmental DNA.

RevDate: 2024-01-05

Hipp AL, D Lazic (2024)

Ancient tree genomes for old questions.

Molecular ecology [Epub ahead of print].

Most foundational work on the evolution and migration of plant species relies on genomic data from contemporary samples. Ancient plant samples can give us access to allele sequences and distributions on the landscape dating back to the mid Holocene or earlier (Gugerli et al., 2005). Nuclear DNA from ancient wood, however, has been mostly inaccessible until now. In a From the Cover article in this issue of Molecular Ecology, Wagner et al. (2023) present the first resequenced nuclear genomes from ancient oak wood, including two samples dated to the 15th century and one that dates to more than 3500 years ago. These ancient tree genomes open the possibility for investigating species adaptation, migration, divergence, and hybridisation in the deep past. They pave the way for what we hope will be a new era in the use of paleogenomics to study Holocene tree histories.

RevDate: 2024-01-04

Barrie W, Irving-Pease EK, Willerslev E, et al (2024)

Ancient DNA reveals evolutionary origins of autoimmune diseases.

Nature reviews. Immunology [Epub ahead of print].

RevDate: 2024-01-04

Sharko FS, Boulygina ES, Tsygankova SV, et al (2024)

Koban culture genome-wide and archeological data open the bridge between Bronze and Iron Ages in the North Caucasus.

European journal of human genetics : EJHG [Epub ahead of print].

The North Caucasus played a key role during the ancient colonization of Eurasia and the formation of its cultural and genetic ancestry. Previous archeogenetic studies described a relative genetic and cultural continuity of ancient Caucasus societies, since the Eneolithic period. The Koban culture, which formed in the Late Bronze Age on the North Caucasian highlands, is considered as a cultural "bridge" between the ancient and modern autochthonous peoples of the Caucasus. Here, we discuss the place of this archeological culture and its representatives in the genetic orbit of Caucasian cultures using genome-wide SNP data from five individuals of the Koban culture and one individual of the early Alanic culture as well as previously published genomic data of ancient and modern North Caucasus individuals. Ancient DNA analysis shows that an ancient individual from Klin-Yar III, who was previously described as male, was in fact a female. Additional studies on well-preserved ancient human specimens are necessary to determine the level of local mobility and kinship between individuals in ancient societies of North Caucasus. Further studies with a larger sample size will allow us gain a deeper understanding of this topic.

RevDate: 2024-01-04

Caduff M, Eckel R, Leuenberger C, et al (2024)

Accurate Bayesian inference of sex chromosome karyotypes and sex-linked scaffolds from low-depth sequencing data.

Molecular ecology resources [Epub ahead of print].

The identification of sex-linked scaffolds and the genetic sex of individuals, i.e. their sex karyotype, is a fundamental step in population genomic studies. If sex-linked scaffolds are known, single individuals may be sexed based on read counts of next-generation sequencing data. If both sex-linked scaffolds as well as sex karyotypes are unknown, as is often the case for non-model organisms, they have to be jointly inferred. For both cases, current methods rely on arbitrary thresholds, which limits their power for low-depth data. In addition, most current methods are limited to euploid sex karyotypes (XX and XY). Here we develop BeXY, a fully Bayesian method to jointly infer the posterior probabilities for each scaffold to be autosomal, X- or Y-linked and for each individual to be any of the sex karyotypes XX, XY, X0, XXX, XXY, XYY and XXYY. If the sex-linked scaffolds are known, it also identifies autosomal trisomies and estimates the sex karyotype posterior probabilities for single individuals. As we show with downsampling experiments, BeXY has higher power than all existing methods. It accurately infers the sex karyotype of ancient human samples with as few as 20,000 reads and accurately infers sex-linked scaffolds from data sets of just a handful of samples or with highly imbalanced sex ratios, also in the case of low-quality reference assemblies. We illustrate the power of BeXY by applying it to both whole-genome shotgun and target enrichment sequencing data of ancient and modern humans, as well as several non-model organisms.

RevDate: 2024-01-03

Yang S, Sun X, Jin L, et al (2024)

Inferring language dispersal patterns with velocity field estimation.

Nature communications, 15(1):190.

Reconstructing the spatial evolution of languages can deepen our understanding of the demic diffusion and cultural spread. However, the phylogeographic approach that is frequently used to infer language dispersal patterns has limitations, primarily because the phylogenetic tree cannot fully explain the language evolution induced by the horizontal contact among languages, such as borrowing and areal diffusion. Here, we introduce the language velocity field estimation, which does not rely on the phylogenetic tree, to infer language dispersal trajectories and centre. Its effectiveness and robustness are verified through both simulated and empirical validations. Using language velocity field estimation, we infer the dispersal patterns of four agricultural language families and groups, encompassing approximately 700 language samples. Our results show that the dispersal trajectories of these languages are primarily compatible with population movement routes inferred from ancient DNA and archaeological materials, and their dispersal centres are geographically proximate to ancient homelands of agricultural or Neolithic cultures. Our findings highlight that the agricultural languages dispersed alongside the demic diffusions and cultural spreads during the past 10,000 years. We expect that language velocity field estimation could aid the spatial analysis of language evolution and further branch out into the studies of demographic and cultural dynamics.

RevDate: 2024-01-01

Abondio P, Bruno F, Passarino G, et al (2023)

Pangenomics: a new era in the field of neurodegenerative diseases.

Ageing research reviews pii:S1568-1637(23)00339-2 [Epub ahead of print].

A pangenome is composed of all the genetic variability of a group of individuals, and its application to the study of neurodegenerative diseases may provide valuable insights into the underlying aspects of genetic heterogenetiy for these complex ailments, including gene expression, epigenetics, and translation mechanisms. Furthermore, a reference pangenome allows for the identification of previously undetected structural commonalities and differences among individuals, which may help in the diagnosis of a disease, support the prediction of what will happen over time (prognosis) and aid in developing novel treatments in the perspective of personalized medicine. Therefore, in the present review, the application of the pangenome concept to the study of neurodegenerative diseases will be discussed and analyzed for its potential to enable an improvement in diagnosis and prognosis for these illnesses, leading to the development of tailored treatments for individual patients from the knowledge of the genomic composition of a whole population.

RevDate: 2023-12-27

Srigyan M, Schubert BW, Bushell M, et al (2023)

Mitogenomic analysis of a late Pleistocene jaguar from North America.

The Journal of heredity pii:7502715 [Epub ahead of print].

The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest living cat species native to the Americas and one of few large American carnivorans to have survived into the Holocene. However, the extent to which jaguar diversity declined during the end-Pleistocene extinction event remains unclear. For example, Pleistocene jaguar fossils from North America are notably larger than the average extant jaguar, leading to hypotheses that jaguars from this continent represent a now-extinct subspecies (Panthera onca augusta) or species (Panthera augusta). Here, we used a hybridization capture approach to recover an ancient mitochondrial genome from a large, late Pleistocene jaguar from Kingston Saltpeter Cave, Georgia, USA, which we sequenced to 26-fold coverage. We then estimated the evolutionary relationship between the ancient jaguar mitogenome and those from other extinct and living large felids, including multiple jaguars sampled across the species' current range. The ancient mitogenome falls within the diversity of living jaguars. All sampled jaguar mitogenomes share a common mitochondrial ancestor ~400 thousand years ago, indicating that the lineage represented by the ancient specimen dispersed into North America from the south at least once during the late Pleistocene. While genomic data from additional and older specimens will continue to improve understanding of Pleistocene jaguar diversity in the Americas, our results suggest that this specimen falls within the variation of extant jaguars despite the relatively larger size and geographic location and does not represent a distinct taxon.

RevDate: 2023-12-27

de Flamingh A, Gnoske TP, Rivera-Colón AG, et al (2023)

Genomic analysis supports Cape Lion population connectivity prior to colonial eradication and extinction.

The Journal of heredity pii:7502716 [Epub ahead of print].

Cape lions (Panthera leo melanochaitus) formerly ranged throughout the grassland plains of the "Cape Flats" in what is today known as the Western Cape Province, South Africa. Cape lions were likely eradicated because of overhunting and habitat loss after European colonization. European naturalists originally described Cape lions as "Black-maned lions" and claimed that they were phenotypically distinct. However, other depictions and historical descriptions of lions from the Cape report mixed or light coloration and without black or extensively developed manes. These findings suggest that, rather than forming a distinct population, Cape lions may have had phenotypic and genotypic variation similar to other African lions. Here we investigate Cape lion genome characteristics, population dynamics, and genetic distinctiveness prior to their extinction. We generated genomic data from two historic Cape lions to compare to 118 existing high-coverage mitogenomes, and low-coverage nuclear genomes of 53 lions from 13 African countries. We show that, before their eradication, lions from the Cape Flats had diverse mitogenomes and nuclear genomes that clustered with lions from both southern and eastern Africa. Cape lions had high genome-wide heterozygosity and low inbreeding coefficients, indicating that populations in the Cape Flats went extinct so rapidly that genomic effects associated with long-term small population size and isolation were not detectable. Our findings do not support the characterization of Cape lions as phylogeographically distinct, as originally put forth by some European naturalists, and illustrates how alternative knowledge-systems, e.g., Indigenous perspectives, could potentially further inform interpretations of species' life histories.

RevDate: 2023-12-22

Panitsina VA, Bodrov SY, Boulygina ES, et al (2023)

In Search of the Elusive North: Evolutionary History of the Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus) in the Palearctic from the Late Pleistocene to the Recent Inferred from Mitogenomic Data.

Biology, 12(12): pii:biology12121517.

Despite the high level of interest, the population history of arctic foxes during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene remains poorly understood. Here we aimed to fill gaps in the demographic and colonization history of the arctic fox by analyzing new ancient DNA data from fossil specimens aged from 50 to 1 thousand years from the Northern and Polar Urals, historic DNA from museum specimens from the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago and the Taymyr Peninsula and supplementing these data by previously published sequences of recent and extinct arctic foxes from other regions. This dataset was used for reconstruction of a time-calibrated phylogeny and a temporal haplotype network covering four time intervals: Late Pleistocene (ranging from 30 to 13 thousand years bp), Holocene (ranging from 4 to 1 thousand years bp), historical (approximately 150 years), and modern. Our results revealed that Late Pleistocene specimens showed no genetic similarity to either modern or historical specimens, thus supporting the earlier hypothesis on local extinction rather than habitat tracking.

RevDate: 2023-12-22

Lien A, Legori LP, Kraft L, et al (2023)

Benchmarking software tools for trimming adapters and merging next-generation sequencing data for ancient DNA.

Frontiers in bioinformatics, 3:1260486.

Ancient DNA is highly degraded, resulting in very short sequences. Reads generated with modern high-throughput sequencing machines are generally longer than ancient DNA molecules, therefore the reads often contain some portion of the sequencing adaptors. It is crucial to remove those adaptors, as they can interfere with downstream analysis. Furthermore, overlapping portions when DNA has been read forward and backward (paired-end) can be merged to correct sequencing errors and improve read quality. Several tools have been developed for adapter trimming and read merging, however, no one has attempted to evaluate their accuracy and evaluate their potential impact on downstream analyses. Through the simulation of sequencing data, seven commonly used tools were analyzed in their ability to reconstruct ancient DNA sequences through read merging. The analyzed tools exhibit notable differences in their abilities to correct sequence errors and identify the correct read overlap, but the most substantial difference is observed in their ability to calculate quality scores for merged bases. Selecting the most appropriate tool for a given project depends on several factors, although some tools such as fastp have some shortcomings, whereas others like leeHom outperform the other tools in most aspects. While the choice of tool did not result in a measurable difference when analyzing population genetics using principal component analysis, it is important to note that downstream analyses that are sensitive to wrongly merged reads or that rely on quality scores can be significantly impacted by the choice of tool.

RevDate: 2023-12-20

Ringbauer H, Huang Y, Akbari A, et al (2023)

Accurate detection of identity-by-descent segments in human ancient DNA.

Nature genetics [Epub ahead of print].

Long DNA segments shared between two individuals, known as identity-by-descent (IBD), reveal recent genealogical connections. Here we introduce ancIBD, a method for identifying IBD segments in ancient human DNA (aDNA) using a hidden Markov model and imputed genotype probabilities. We demonstrate that ancIBD accurately identifies IBD segments >8 cM for aDNA data with an average depth of >0.25× for whole-genome sequencing or >1× for 1240k single nucleotide polymorphism capture data. Applying ancIBD to 4,248 ancient Eurasian individuals, we identify relatives up to the sixth degree and genealogical connections between archaeological groups. Notably, we reveal long IBD sharing between Corded Ware and Yamnaya groups, indicating that the Yamnaya herders of the Pontic-Caspian Steppe and the Steppe-related ancestry in various European Corded Ware groups share substantial co-ancestry within only a few hundred years. These results show that detecting IBD segments can generate powerful insights into the growing aDNA record, both on a small scale relevant to life stories and on a large scale relevant to major cultural-historical events.

RevDate: 2023-12-20

Silva M, Booth T, Moore J, et al (2023)

An individual with Sarmatian-related ancestry in Roman Britain.

Current biology : CB pii:S0960-9822(23)01634-2 [Epub ahead of print].

In the second century CE the Roman Empire had increasing contact with Sarmatians, nomadic Iranian speakers occupying an area stretching from the Pontic-Caspian steppe to the Carpathian mountains, both in the Caucasus and in the Danubian borders of the empire.[1][,][2][,][3] In 175 CE, following their defeat in the Marcomannic Wars, emperor Marcus Aurelius drafted Sarmatian cavalry into Roman legions and deployed 5,500 Sarmatian soldiers to Britain, as recorded by contemporary historian Cassius Dio.[4][,][5] Little is known about where the Sarmatian cavalry were stationed, and no individuals connected with this historically attested event have been identified to date, leaving its impact on Britain largely unknown. Here we document Caucasus- and Sarmatian-related ancestry in the whole genome of a Roman-period individual (126-228 calibrated [cal.] CE)-an outlier without traceable ancestry related to local populations in Britain-recovered from a farmstead site in present-day Cambridgeshire, UK. Stable isotopes support a life history of mobility during childhood. Although several scenarios are possible, the historical deployment of Sarmatians to Britain provides a parsimonious explanation for this individual's extraordinary life history. Regardless of the factors behind his migrations, these results highlight how long-range mobility facilitated by the Roman Empire impacted provincial locations outside of urban centers.

RevDate: 2023-12-14

Fiddaman SR, Dimopoulos EA, Lebrasseur O, et al (2023)

Ancient chicken remains reveal the origins of virulence in Marek's disease virus.

Science (New York, N.Y.), 382(6676):1276-1281.

The pronounced growth in livestock populations since the 1950s has altered the epidemiological and evolutionary trajectory of their associated pathogens. For example, Marek's disease virus (MDV), which causes lymphoid tumors in chickens, has experienced a marked increase in virulence over the past century. Today, MDV infections kill >90% of unvaccinated birds, and controlling it costs more than US$1 billion annually. By sequencing MDV genomes derived from archeological chickens, we demonstrate that it has been circulating for at least 1000 years. We functionally tested the Meq oncogene, one of 49 viral genes positively selected in modern strains, demonstrating that ancient MDV was likely incapable of driving tumor formation. Our results demonstrate the power of ancient DNA approaches to trace the molecular basis of virulence in economically relevant pathogens.

RevDate: 2023-12-13

Reis ALM, Rapadas M, Hammond JM, et al (2023)

The landscape of genomic structural variation in Indigenous Australians.

Nature [Epub ahead of print].

Indigenous Australians harbour rich and unique genomic diversity. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestries are historically under-represented in genomics research and almost completely missing from reference datasets[1-3]. Addressing this representation gap is critical, both to advance our understanding of global human genomic diversity and as a prerequisite for ensuring equitable outcomes in genomic medicine. Here we apply population-scale whole-genome long-read sequencing[4] to profile genomic structural variation across four remote Indigenous communities. We uncover an abundance of large insertion-deletion variants (20-49 bp; n = 136,797), structural variants (50 b-50 kb; n = 159,912) and regions of variable copy number (>50 kb; n = 156). The majority of variants are composed of tandem repeat or interspersed mobile element sequences (up to 90%) and have not been previously annotated (up to 62%). A large fraction of structural variants appear to be exclusive to Indigenous Australians (12% lower-bound estimate) and most of these are found in only a single community, underscoring the need for broad and deep sampling to achieve a comprehensive catalogue of genomic structural variation across the Australian continent. Finally, we explore short tandem repeats throughout the genome to characterize allelic diversity at 50 known disease loci[5], uncover hundreds of novel repeat expansion sites within protein-coding genes, and identify unique patterns of diversity and constraint among short tandem repeat sequences. Our study sheds new light on the dimensions and dynamics of genomic structural variation within and beyond Australia.

RevDate: 2023-12-13

Pilowsky JA, Brown SC, Llamas B, et al (2023)

Millennial processes of population decline, range contraction and near extinction of the European bison.

Proceedings. Biological sciences, 290(2013):20231095.

European bison (Bison bonasus) were widespread throughout Europe during the late Pleistocene. However, the contributions of environmental change and humans to their near extinction have never been resolved. Using process-explicit models, fossils and ancient DNA, we disentangle the combinations of threatening processes that drove population declines and regional extinctions of European bison through space and across time. We show that the population size of European bison declined abruptly at the termination of the Pleistocene in response to rapid environmental change, hunting by humans and their interaction. Human activities prevented populations of European bison from rebounding in the Holocene, despite improved environmental conditions. Hunting caused range loss in the north and east of its distribution, while land use change was responsible for losses in the west and south. Advances in hunting technologies from 1500 CE were needed to simulate low abundances observed in 1870 CE. While our findings show that humans were an important driver of the extinction of the European bison in the wild, vast areas of its range vanished during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition because of post-glacial environmental change. These areas of its former range have been climatically unsuitable for millennia and should not be considered in reintroduction efforts.

RevDate: 2023-12-11

Cox SL, Nicklisch N, Francken M, et al (2023)

Socio-cultural practices may have affected sex differences in stature in Early Neolithic Europe.

Nature human behaviour [Epub ahead of print].

The rules and structure of human culture impact health as much as genetics or environment. To study these relationships, we combine ancient DNA (n = 230), skeletal metrics (n = 391), palaeopathology (n = 606) and dietary stable isotopes (n = 873) to analyse stature variation in Early Neolithic Europeans from North Central, South Central, Balkan and Mediterranean regions. In North Central Europe, stable isotopes and linear enamel hypoplasias indicate high environmental stress across sexes, but female stature is low, despite polygenic scores identical to males, and suggests that cultural factors preferentially supported male recovery from stress. In Mediterranean populations, sexual dimorphism is reduced, indicating male vulnerability to stress and no strong cultural preference for males. Our analysis indicates that biological effects of sex-specific inequities can be linked to cultural influences at least as early as 7,000 yr ago, and culture, more than environment or genetics, drove height disparities in Early Neolithic Europe.

RevDate: 2023-12-09

Bruno F, Aceto MA, Abondio P, et al (2023)

Occupation, Literacy, Anthropometric Traits, and Life Expectancy of Italian Men Born 1900-1910: Evidence From Military Conscription Registers.

Journal of aging and health [Epub ahead of print].

OBJECTIVE: The aim is to explore the role of anthropometric traits and sociodemographic characteristics on human survival.

METHODS: Anthropometrics and sociodemographic data of 1944 conscripts born in the first decade of the 20th century in rural municipalities of Calabria (Southern Italy) who underwent medical examinations for military service were collected. Medical examinations were linked to individual survival data.

RESULTS: Height and type of occupation influenced life expectancy. For taller men, the risk of mortality increases by about 20% when compared with men with middle height, while farmers exhibited a significant survival advantage compared to those with other working experiences.

DISCUSSION: Height and type of occupation were associated with human mortality. These results are likely to be related to the effect of healthy dietary patterns and physical activity on life expectancy. Further studies are needed to understand to what extent these results obtained in a rural context can be generalized to other contexts.

RevDate: 2023-12-08

Olalde I, Carrión P, Mikić I, et al (2023)

A genetic history of the Balkans from Roman frontier to Slavic migrations.

Cell, 186(25):5472-5485.e9.

The rise and fall of the Roman Empire was a socio-political process with enormous ramifications for human history. The Middle Danube was a crucial frontier and a crossroads for population and cultural movement. Here, we present genome-wide data from 136 Balkan individuals dated to the 1[st] millennium CE. Despite extensive militarization and cultural influence, we find little ancestry contribution from peoples of Italic descent. However, we trace a large-scale influx of people of Anatolian ancestry during the Imperial period. Between ∼250 and 550 CE, we detect migrants with ancestry from Central/Northern Europe and the Steppe, confirming that "barbarian" migrations were propelled by ethnically diverse confederations. Following the end of Roman control, we detect the large-scale arrival of individuals who were genetically similar to modern Eastern European Slavic-speaking populations, who contributed 30%-60% of the ancestry of Balkan people, representing one of the largest permanent demographic changes anywhere in Europe during the Migration Period.

RevDate: 2023-12-07

Grasso G, Rotunno S, Debruyne R, et al (2024)

Identification of DNA Viruses in Ancient DNA from Herbarium Samples.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 2732:221-234.

Herbaria encompass millions of plant specimens, mostly collected in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that can represent a key resource for investigating the history and evolution of phytopathogens. In the last years, the application of high-throughput sequencing technologies for the analysis of ancient nucleic acids has revolutionized the study of ancient pathogens including viruses, allowing the reconstruction of historical genomic viral sequences, improving phylogenetic based molecular dating, and providing essential insight into plant virus ecology. In this chapter, we describe a protocol to reconstruct ancient plant and soil viral sequences starting from highly fragmented ancient DNA extracted from herbarium plants and their associated rhizospheric soil. Following Illumina high-throughput sequencing, sequence data are de novo assembled, and DNA viral sequences are selected, according to their similarity with known viruses.

RevDate: 2023-12-06

Peng K, Liu X, Cheng H, et al (2023)

Characterization of driving factors for the long-term succession of bloom-forming cyanobacterial genera in Lake Erhai, southwest China.

Journal of environmental management, 351:119729 pii:S0301-4797(23)02517-3 [Epub ahead of print].

Cyanobacterial blooms pose a global environmental concern, with various genera contributing to their formation. The harmfulness of cyanobacterial blooms varies depending on the specific genus, yet the factors triggering their formation remain incompletely understood. This study conducted qPCR of sediment DNA in Lake Erhai to reconstruct the historical succession of three common bloom-forming cyanobacterial genera (i.e., Microcystis, Dolichospermum, and Aphanizomenon). The driving factors and their corresponding thresholds were identified, and human activities related to driving factors were evaluated. The results revealed two successions in the past century. The first succession transitioned from Aphanizomenon (1902-1978) to Microcystis and Dolichospermum (1978-1999), driven by TN:TP and TP. The second succession shifted from Microcystis and Dolichospermum (1978-1999) to Microcystis (1999-2010), driven by TP, TN:TP, and temperature. The thresholds of TP and TN:TP for the Microcystis bloom were 0.023 mg/L and 17, respectively. TN:TP was significantly influenced by domestic pollution and crop farming in both successions, while TP was significantly impacted by domestic pollution in the first succession and by pollution from crop and dairy farming in the second succession. These results shed light on the underlying mechanism responsible for the blooms of various cyanobacterial genera and could serve as a valuable reference for effectively preventing and controlling nutrient input in the watershed.

RevDate: 2023-12-05

Wroblewski TH, Witt KE, Lee SB, et al (2023)

Pharmacogenetic variation in Neanderthals and Denisovans and implications for human health and response to medications.

Genome biology and evolution pii:7459155 [Epub ahead of print].

Modern humans carry both Neanderthal and Denisovan (archaic) genome elements that are part of the human gene pool and affect the life and health of living individuals. The impact of archaic DNA may be particularly evident in pharmacogenes - genes responsible for the processing of exogenous substances such as food, pollutants, and medications - as these can relate to changing environmental effects, and beneficial variants may have been retained as modern humans encountered new environments. However, the health implications and contribution of archaic ancestry in pharmacogenes of modern humans remain understudied. Here, we explore eleven key cytochrome P450 genes (CYP450) involved in 75% of all drug metabolizing reactions in three Neanderthal and one Denisovan individuals and examine archaic introgression in modern human populations. We infer the metabolizing efficiency of these eleven CYP450 genes in archaic individuals and find important predicted phenotypic differences relative to modern human variants. We identify several single nucleotide variants shared between archaic and modern humans in each gene, including some potentially function-altering mutations in archaic CYP450 genes, which may result in altered metabolism in living people carrying these variants. We also identified several variants in the archaic CYP450 genes that are novel and unique to archaic humans as well as one gene, CYP2B6, that shows evidence for a gene duplication found only in Neanderthals and modern Africans. Finally, we highlight CYP2A6, CYP2C9, and CYP2J2, genes which show evidence for archaic introgression into modern humans and posit evolutionary hypotheses that explain their allele frequencies in modern populations.

RevDate: 2023-12-04

Xiao B, Rey-Lglesia A, Yuan J, et al (2023)

Relationships of Late Pleistocene giant deer as revealed by Sinomegaceros mitogenomes from East Asia.

iScience, 26(12):108406.

The giant deer, widespread in northern Eurasia during the Late Pleistocene, have been classified as western Megaloceros and eastern Sinomegaceros through morphological studies. While Megaloceros's evolutionary history has been unveiled through mitogenomes, Sinomegaceros remains molecularly unexplored. Herein, we generated mitogenomes of giant deer from East Asia. We find that, in contrast to the morphological differences between Megaloceros and Sinomegaceros, they are mixed in the mitochondrial phylogeny, and Siberian specimens suggest a range contact or overlap between these two groups. Meanwhile, one deep divergent clade and another surviving until 20.1 thousand years ago (ka) were detected in northeastern China, the latter implying this area as a potential refugium during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Moreover, stable isotope analyses indicate correlations between climate-introduced vegetation changes and giant deer extinction. Our study demonstrates the genetic relationship between eastern and western giant deer and explores the promoters of their extirpation in northern East Asia.

RevDate: 2023-12-04

Fewlass H, Zavala EI, Fagault Y, et al (2023)

Chronological and genetic analysis of an Upper Palaeolithic female infant burial from Borsuka Cave, Poland.

iScience, 26(12):108283.

Six infant human teeth and 112 animal tooth pendants from Borsuka Cave were identified as the oldest burial in Poland. However, uncertainties around the dating and the association of the teeth to the pendants have precluded their association with an Upper Palaeolithic archaeological industry. Using <67 mg per tooth, we combined dating and genetic analyses of two human teeth and six herbivore tooth pendants to address these questions. Our interdisciplinary approach yielded informative results despite limited sampling material, and high levels of degradation and contamination. Our results confirm the Palaeolithic origin of the human remains and herbivore pendants, and permit us to identify the infant as female and discuss the association of the assemblage with different Palaeolithic industries. This study exemplifies the progress that has been made toward minimally destructive methods and the benefits of integrating methods to maximize data retrieval from precious but highly degraded and contaminated prehistoric material.

RevDate: 2023-12-01

Fournier R, Tsangalidou Z, Reich D, et al (2023)

Haplotype-based inference of recent effective population size in modern and ancient DNA samples.

Nature communications, 14(1):7945.

Individuals sharing recent ancestors are likely to co-inherit large identical-by-descent (IBD) genomic regions. The distribution of these IBD segments in a population may be used to reconstruct past demographic events such as effective population size variation, but accurate IBD detection is difficult in ancient DNA data and in underrepresented populations with limited reference data. In this work, we introduce an accurate method for inferring effective population size variation during the past ~2000 years in both modern and ancient DNA data, called HapNe. HapNe infers recent population size fluctuations using either IBD sharing (HapNe-IBD) or linkage disequilibrium (HapNe-LD), which does not require phasing and can be computed in low coverage data, including data sets with heterogeneous sampling times. HapNe shows improved accuracy in a range of simulated demographic scenarios compared to currently available methods for IBD-based and LD-based inference of recent effective population size, while requiring fewer computational resources. We apply HapNe to several modern populations from the 1,000 Genomes Project, the UK Biobank, the Allen Ancient DNA Resource, and recently published samples from Iron Age Britain, detecting multiple instances of recent effective population size variation across these groups.

RevDate: 2023-11-29

Fortes-Lima CA, Burgarella C, Hammarén R, et al (2023)

The genetic legacy of the expansion of Bantu-speaking peoples in Africa.

Nature [Epub ahead of print].

The expansion of people speaking Bantu languages is the most dramatic demographic event in Late Holocene Africa and fundamentally reshaped the linguistic, cultural and biological landscape of the continent[1-7]. With a comprehensive genomic dataset, including newly generated data of modern-day and ancient DNA from previously unsampled regions in Africa, we contribute insights into this expansion that started 6,000-4,000 years ago in western Africa. We genotyped 1,763 participants, including 1,526 Bantu speakers from 147 populations across 14 African countries, and generated whole-genome sequences from 12 Late Iron Age individuals[8]. We show that genetic diversity amongst Bantu-speaking populations declines with distance from western Africa, with current-day Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo as possible crossroads of interaction. Using spatially explicit methods[9] and correlating genetic, linguistic and geographical data, we provide cross-disciplinary support for a serial-founder migration model. We further show that Bantu speakers received significant gene flow from local groups in regions they expanded into. Our genetic dataset provides an exhaustive modern-day African comparative dataset for ancient DNA studies[10] and will be important to a wide range of disciplines from science and humanities, as well as to the medical sector studying human genetic variation and health in African and African-descendant populations.

RevDate: 2023-11-28

Williams MP, Flegontov P, Maier R, et al (2023)

Testing Times: Challenges in Disentangling Admixture Histories in Recent and Complex Demographies.

bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology pii:2023.11.13.566841.

Paleogenomics has expanded our knowledge of human evolutionary history. Since the 2020s, the study of ancient DNA has increased its focus on reconstructing the recent past. However, the accuracy of paleogenomic methods in answering questions of historical and archaeological importance amidst the increased demographic complexity and decreased genetic differentiation within the historical period remains an open question. We used two simulation approaches to evaluate the limitations and behavior of commonly used methods, qpAdm and the f 3 -statistic, on admixture inference. The first is based on branch-length data simulated from four simple demographic models of varying complexities and configurations. The second, an analysis of Eurasian history composed of 59 populations using whole-genome data modified with ancient DNA conditions such as SNP ascertainment, data missingness, and pseudo-haploidization. We show that under conditions resembling historical populations, qpAdm can identify a small candidate set of true sources and populations closely related to them. However, in typical ancient DNA conditions, qpAdm is unable to further distinguish between them, limiting its utility for resolving fine-scaled hypotheses. Notably, we find that complex gene-flow histories generally lead to improvements in the performance of qpAdm and observe no bias in the estimation of admixture weights. We offer a heuristic for admixture inference that incorporates admixture weight estimate and P -values of qpAdm models, and f 3 -statistics to enhance the power to distinguish between multiple plausible candidates. Finally, we highlight the future potential of qpAdm through whole-genome branch-length f 2 -statistics, demonstrating the improved demographic inference that could be achieved with advancements in f -statistic estimations.

RevDate: 2023-11-28

Jäger HY, Atz Zanotelli D, Maixner F, et al (2023)

Hit or miss - A metagenomic evaluation of intra-bone variability of host pathogen load in tuberculosis-infected human remains.

Tuberculosis (Edinburgh, Scotland), 143S:102392.

Many sampling protocols have been established to successfully retrieve human DNA from archaeological remains, however the systematic detection of ancient pathogens remains challenging. Here, we present a first assessment of the intra-bone variability of metagenomic composition in human skeletal remains and its effect on the sampling success for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) and human endogenous DNA. For this purpose, four bone samples from published peer-reviewed studies with PCR-based evidence for ancient MTB DNA were selected. Two bone samples of a Neolithic individual from Halberstadt, Germany and two ribs of two 18th-century Hungarian church mummies were sampled at multiple locations for equal amounts, followed by DNA extraction and library construction. Shotgun sequencing data was generated for taxonomic profiling as well as quantitative and qualitative evaluation of MTB and human endogenous DNA. Despite low variance in microbial diversity within and across samples, intra-bone variability of up to 36.45- and 62.88-fold for authentic ancient MTB and human reads, respectively, was detected. This study demonstrates the variable sampling success for MTB and human endogenous DNA within single skeletal samples despite relatively consistent microbial composition and highlights how a multisampling approach can facilitate the detection of hotspots with highly concentrated pathogen and human endogenous DNA.

RevDate: 2023-11-28

Zink A, Maixner F, Jäger HY, et al (2023)

Tuberculosis in mummies - New findings, perspectives and limitations.

Tuberculosis (Edinburgh, Scotland), 143S:102371.

The molecular analysis of ancient pathogen DNA represents a unique opportunity for the study of infectious diseases in ancient human remains. Among other diseases, paleogenetic studies have been successful in detecting tuberculous DNA in ancient human remains. In the beginning of ancient DNA (aDNA) studies, the presence of tuberculosis (TB) DNA was assessed using a PCR-based assay targeting specific regions of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) complex, such as the repetitive element IS6110. The advent of high-throughput sequencing has enabled the reconstruction of full ancient TB genomes in the field of paleomicrobiology. However, despite the numerous paleopathological and PCR-based studies on the presence of tuberculosis in historic human remains, full genome wide reconstructions are still limited to well-preserved specimens with low environmental contamination and connected with extensive screening efforts. This has led to some controversies regarding the evolutionary history of its causative agent Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In this context, mummies have been shown to be a good source for the detection of MTB complex DNA due to a low exposure to environmental influences and the overall good state of preservation of hard and soft tissues in the human remains. Here, we present the major findings on the presence of TB infections in the 18th century naturally mummified human remains from Vác, Hungary and the current status of the detection of MTB complex DNA in mummified human remains. The future perspectives of detecting tuberculosis in mummies will be discussed in the light of methodological aspects, as well as ethical and curational challenges.

RevDate: 2023-11-28

Kharlamova N, Ogarkov O, Berdnikov I, et al (2023)

Bioarchaeological and molecular evidence of tuberculosis in human skeletal remains from 18th-19th century orthodox cemeteries in Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia.

Tuberculosis (Edinburgh, Scotland), 143S:102368.

In this study, we tested the skeletal human remains from the 18th - early 19th century Orthodox cemeteries in Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia, for tuberculosis-associated morphological alterations and Mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA. The morphologically studied bone collection included 591 individuals of mainly Caucasian origin. The molecular methods (IS6110-PCR and spoligotyping) suggested that at least four individuals (out of 15 TB-suspected, DNA-tested) were positive for the presence of M. tuberculosis DNA. All of them were males (3 maturus, 1 maturus senilis). Two of them date back to the second and third quarters of the 18th century, another to the last quarter of the 18th century, and the last one to the second half of the 19th century. The combined molecular analysis cautiously suggested presence of different strains and at least some of them represented not the currently predominant in Siberia Beijing genotype (M. tuberculosis East-Asian lineage) but strains of European origin. In conclusion, this study presented bioarchaeological and molecular evidence of tuberculosis in human skeletal remains from 18th-19th century Orthodox cemeteries in Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia. The samples are not M. bovis and represent human M. tuberculosis sensu stricto. Their precise phylogenetic identity is elusive but evokes the European/Russian origin of at least some isolates.

RevDate: 2023-11-25

Houldcroft CJ, S Underdown (2023)

Infectious disease in the Pleistocene: Old friends or old foes?.

American journal of biological anthropology, 182(4):513-531.

The impact of endemic and epidemic disease on humans has traditionally been seen as a comparatively recent historical phenomenon associated with the Neolithisation of human groups, an increase in population size led by sedentarism, and increasing contact with domesticated animals as well as species occupying opportunistic symbiotic and ectosymbiotic relationships with humans. The orthodox approach is that Neolithisation created the conditions for increasing population size able to support a reservoir of infectious disease sufficient to act as selective pressure. This orthodoxy is the result of an overly simplistic reliance on skeletal data assuming that no skeletal lesions equated to a healthy individual, underpinned by the assumption that hunter-gatherer groups were inherently healthy while agricultural groups acted as infectious disease reservoirs. The work of van Blerkom, Am. J. Phys. Anthropol., vol. suppl 37 (2003), Wolfe et al., Nature, vol. 447 (2007) and Houldcroft and Underdown, Am. J. Phys. Anthropol., vol. 160, (2016) has changed this landscape by arguing that humans and pathogens have long been fellow travelers. The package of infectious diseases experienced by our ancient ancestors may not be as dissimilar to modern infectious diseases as was once believed. The importance of DNA, from ancient and modern sources, to the study of the antiquity of infectious disease, and its role as a selective pressure cannot be overstated. Here we consider evidence of ancient epidemic and endemic infectious diseases with inferences from modern and ancient human and hominin DNA, and from circulating and extinct pathogen genomes. We argue that the pandemics of the past are a vital tool to unlock the weapons needed to fight pandemics of the future.

RevDate: 2023-11-25

Uricoechea Patiño D, Collins A, Romero García OJ, et al (2023)

Unraveling the Genetic Threads of History: mtDNA HVS-I Analysis Reveals the Ancient Past of the Aburra Valley.

Genes, 14(11): pii:genes14112036.

This article presents a comprehensive genetic study focused on pre-Hispanic individuals who inhabited the Aburrá Valley in Antioquia, Colombia, between the tenth and seventeenth centuries AD. Employing a genetic approach, the study analyzed maternal lineages using DNA samples obtained from skeletal remains. The results illuminate a remarkable degree of biological diversity within these populations and provide insights into their genetic connections with other ancient and indigenous groups across the American continent. The findings strongly support the widely accepted hypothesis that the migration of the first American settlers occurred through Beringia, a land bridge connecting Siberia to North America during the last Ice Age. Subsequently, these early settlers journeyed southward, crossing the North American ice cap. Of particular note, the study unveils the presence of ancestral lineages from Asian populations, which played a pivotal role in populating the Americas. The implications of these results extend beyond delineating migratory routes and settlement patterns of ancient populations. They also enrich our understanding of the genetic diversity inherent in indigenous populations of the region. By revealing the genetic heritage of pre-Hispanic individuals from the Aburrá Valley, this study offers valuable insights into the history of human migration and settlement in the Americas. Furthermore, it enhances our comprehension of the intricate genetic tapestry that characterizes indigenous communities in the area.

RevDate: 2023-11-22

Izarraras-Gomez A, D Ortega-Del Vecchyo (2023)

Ancient DNA uncovers past migrations in California.

RevDate: 2023-11-22

Di Santo LN, Quilodran CS, M Currat (2023)

Temporal variation in introgressed segments' length statistics computed from a limited number of ancient genomes sheds light on past admixture pulses.

Molecular biology and evolution pii:7441957 [Epub ahead of print].

Hybridization is recognized as an important evolutionary force, but identifying and timing admixture events between divergent lineages remains a major aim of evolutionary biology. While this has traditionally been done using inferential tools on contemporary genomes, the latest advances in paleogenomics have provided a growing wealth of temporally distributed genomic data. Here, we used individual-based simulations to generate chromosome-level genomic data for a two-population system and described temporal neutral introgression patterns under a single- and two-pulse admixture model. We computed six summary statistics aiming to inform the timing and number of admixture pulses between interbreeding entities: lengths of introgressed sequences and their variance within-genomes, as well as genome-wide introgression proportions and related measures. The first two statistics could confidently be used to infer inter-lineage hybridization history, peaking at the beginning and shortly after an admixture pulse. Temporal variation in introgression proportions and related statistics provided more limited insights, particularly when considering their application to ancient genomes still scant in number. Lastly, we computed these statistics on Homo sapiens paleogenomes and successfully inferred the hybridization pulse from Neanderthal that occurred approximately 40 to 60 kya. The scarce number of genomes dating from this period prevented more precise inferences, but the accumulation of paleogenomic data opens promising perspectives as our approach only requires a limited number of ancient genomes.

RevDate: 2023-11-16

Pečnerová P, Lord E, Garcia-Erill G, et al (2023)

Population genomics of the muskox' resilience in the near absence of genetic variation.

Molecular ecology [Epub ahead of print].

Genomic studies of species threatened by extinction are providing crucial information about evolutionary mechanisms and genetic consequences of population declines and bottlenecks. However, to understand how species avoid the extinction vortex, insights can be drawn by studying species that thrive despite past declines. Here, we studied the population genomics of the muskox (Ovibos moschatus), an Ice Age relict that was at the brink of extinction for thousands of years at the end of the Pleistocene yet appears to be thriving today. We analysed 108 whole genomes, including present-day individuals representing the current native range of both muskox subspecies, the white-faced and the barren-ground muskox (O. moschatus wardi and O. moschatus moschatus) and a ~21,000-year-old ancient individual from Siberia. We found that the muskox' demographic history was profoundly shaped by past climate changes and post-glacial re-colonizations. In particular, the white-faced muskox has the lowest genome-wide heterozygosity recorded in an ungulate. Yet, there is no evidence of inbreeding depression in native muskox populations. We hypothesize that this can be explained by the effect of long-term gradual population declines that allowed for purging of strongly deleterious mutations. This study provides insights into how species with a history of population bottlenecks, small population sizes and low genetic diversity survive against all odds.

RevDate: 2023-11-13

Harning DJ, Sacco S, Anamthawat-Jónsson K, et al (2023)

Delayed postglacial colonization of Betula in Iceland and the circum North Atlantic.

eLife, 12: pii:87749.

As the Arctic continues to warm, woody shrubs are expected to expand northward. This process, known as 'shrubification,' has important implications for regional biodiversity, food web structure, and high-latitude temperature amplification. While the future rate of shrubification remains poorly constrained, past records of plant immigration to newly deglaciated landscapes in the Arctic may serve as useful analogs. We provide one new postglacial Holocene sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) record of vascular plants from Iceland and place a second Iceland postglacial sedaDNA record on an improved geochronology; both show Salicaceae present shortly after deglaciation, whereas Betulaceae first appears more than 1000 y later. We find a similar pattern of delayed Betulaceae colonization in eight previously published postglacial sedaDNA records from across the glaciated circum North Atlantic. In nearly all cases, we find that Salicaceae colonizes earlier than Betulaceae and that Betulaceae colonization is increasingly delayed for locations farther from glacial-age woody plant refugia. These trends in Salicaceae and Betulaceae colonization are consistent with the plant families' environmental tolerances, species diversity, reproductive strategies, seed sizes, and soil preferences. As these reconstructions capture the efficiency of postglacial vascular plant migration during a past period of high-latitude warming, a similarly slow response of some woody shrubs to current warming in glaciated regions, and possibly non-glaciated tundra, may delay Arctic shrubification and future changes in the structure of tundra ecosystems and temperature amplification.

RevDate: 2023-11-13

Salado I, Preick M, Lupiáñez-Corpas N, et al (2023)

Large variance in inbreeding within the Iberian wolf population.

The Journal of heredity pii:7410321 [Epub ahead of print].

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) population on the Iberian Peninsula was the largest in western and central Europe during most of the 20th century, with its size apparently never under a few hundred individuals. After partial legal protection in the 1970s in Spain, the northwest Iberian population increased to about 300-350 packs and then stabilized. In contrast to many current European wolf populations, which have been connected through gene flow, the Iberian wolf population has been isolated for decades. Here we measured changes on genomic diversity and inbreeding through the last decades in a geographic context. We find that the level of genomic diversity in Iberian wolves is low compared to other Eurasian wolf populations. Despite population expansion in the last 50 years, some modern wolves had very high inbreeding, especially in the recently recolonized and historical edge areas. These individuals contrast with others with low inbreeding within the same population. The high variance in inbreeding despite population expansion seems associated with small-scale fragmentation of the range that is revealed by the genetic similarity between modern and historical samples from close localities despite being separated by decades, remaining differentiated from other individuals that are just over 100 km away, a small distance for a species with great dispersal capacity inhabiting a continuous range. This illustrates that, despite its demographically stable condition, the population would probably benefit from favoring connectivity within the population as well as genetic exchange with other European wolf populations to avoid excessive fragmentation and local inbreeding depression.

RevDate: 2023-11-13

Anonymous (2023)

Neolithic Community Revealed Using Ancient DNA Data.

American journal of medical genetics. Part A, 191(12):2797-2798.

RevDate: 2023-11-13

Coia V, Paladin A, Zingale S, et al (2023)

Ancestry and kinship in a Late Antiquity-Early Middle Ages cemetery in the Eastern Italian Alps.

iScience, 26(11):108215.

In South Tyrol (Eastern Italian Alps), during Late Antiquity-Early Middle Ages, archeological records indicate cultural hybridization among alpine groups and peoples of various origin. Using paleogenomics, we reconstructed the ancestry of 20 individuals (4[th]-7[th] cent. AD) from a cemetery to analyze whether they had heterogeneous or homogeneous ancestry and to study their social organization. The results revealed a primary genetic ancestry from southern Europe and additional ancestries from south-western, western, and northern Europe, suggesting that cultural hybridization was accompanied by complex genetic admixture. Kinship analyses found no genetic relatedness between the only two individuals buried with grave goods. Instead, a father-son pair was discovered in one multiple grave, together with unrelated individuals and one possible non-local female. These genetic findings indicate the presence of a high social status familia, which is supported by the cultural materials and the proximity of the grave to the most sacred area of the church.

RevDate: 2023-11-10

Callaway E (2023)

How to keep wildcats wild: ancient DNA offers fresh insights.

RevDate: 2023-11-07

Jamieson A, Carmagnini A, Howard-McCombe J, et al (2023)

Limited historical admixture between European wildcats and domestic cats.

Current biology : CB, 33(21):4751-4760.e14.

Domestic cats were derived from the Near Eastern wildcat (Felis lybica), after which they dispersed with people into Europe. As they did so, it is possible that they interbred with the indigenous population of European wildcats (Felis silvestris). Gene flow between incoming domestic animals and closely related indigenous wild species has been previously demonstrated in other taxa, including pigs, sheep, goats, bees, chickens, and cattle. In the case of cats, a lack of nuclear, genome-wide data, particularly from Near Eastern wildcats, has made it difficult to either detect or quantify this possibility. To address these issues, we generated 75 ancient mitochondrial genomes, 14 ancient nuclear genomes, and 31 modern nuclear genomes from European and Near Eastern wildcats. Our results demonstrate that despite cohabitating for at least 2,000 years on the European mainland and in Britain, most modern domestic cats possessed less than 10% of their ancestry from European wildcats, and ancient European wildcats possessed little to no ancestry from domestic cats. The antiquity and strength of this reproductive isolation between introduced domestic cats and local wildcats was likely the result of behavioral and ecological differences. Intriguingly, this long-lasting reproductive isolation is currently being eroded in parts of the species' distribution as a result of anthropogenic activities.

RevDate: 2023-11-07

Schurr TG, Shengelia R, Shamoon-Pour M, et al (2023)

Genetic Analysis of Mingrelians Reveals Long-Term Continuity of Populations in Western Georgia (Caucasus).

Genome biology and evolution pii:7341981 [Epub ahead of print].

To elucidate the population history of the Caucasus, we conducted a survey of genetic diversity in Samegrelo (Mingrelia), western Georgia. We collected DNA samples and genealogical information from 485 individuals residing in 30 different locations, the vast majority of whom being Mingrelian-speaking. From these DNA samples, we generated mtDNA control region sequences for all 485 participants (female and male), Y-STR haplotypes for the 372 male participants, and analyzed all samples at nearly 590,000 autosomal SNPs plus around 33,000 on the sex chromosomes, with 27,000 SNP removed for missingness, using the GenoChip 2.0+ microarray. The resulting data were compared with those from populations from Anatolia, the Caucasus, the Near East, and Europe. Overall, Mingrelians exhibited considerable mtDNA haplogroup diversity, having high frequencies of common West Eurasian haplogroups (H, HV, I, J, K, N1, R1, R2, T, U, W. X2), as well as low frequencies of East Eurasian haplogroups (A, C, D, F, G). From a Y-chromosome standpoint, Mingrelians possessed a variety of haplogroups, including E1b1b, G2a, I2, J1, J2, L, Q, R1a, and R1b. Analysis of autosomal SNP data further revealed that Mingrelians are genetically homogeneous and cluster with other modern-day South Caucasus populations. When compared to ancient DNA samples from Bronze Age archaeological contexts in the broader region, these data indicate that the Mingrelian gene pool began taking its current form at least by this period, probably in conjunction with the formation of a distinct linguistic community.

RevDate: 2023-11-06

Roche K, Dalle F, Capelli N, et al (2023)

From modern-day parasitology to paleoparasitology: the elusive past record and evolution of Cryptosporidium.

Frontiers in microbiology, 14:1249884.

Recent efforts have been made to review the state of the art on a variety of questions and targets in paleoparasitology, including protozoan taxa. Meanwhile, these efforts seemed to let aside Cryptosporidium, and we then intended to review its paleoparasitological record to assess its past distribution and favored detection methods, and eventually highlight needed research trajectories. This review shows that contrary to other parasites, most of the positive results came from South-American sites and coprolites rather than sediment samples, highlighting the need to test this kind of material, notably in Europe where many negative results were reported in the published literature from sediment samples. Moreover, aDNA-based detections are nearly absent from the paleoparasitological record of this parasite, though punctually shown successful. With their potential to address the evolutionary history of Cryptosporidium species, notably through their 18S rRNA tree, aDNA-based approaches should be encouraged in the future. In sum, and though the limits of currently used methods and materials remain unclear, this review highlights the potential role of coprolites and aDNA for the study of Cryptosporidium species in the past and how this history shaped their current diversity and distribution, notably among human populations but also farm animals.

RevDate: 2023-11-06

Childebayeva A, EI Zavala (2023)

Review: Computational analysis of human skeletal remains in ancient DNA and forensic genetics.

iScience, 26(11):108066.

Degraded DNA is used to answer questions in the fields of ancient DNA (aDNA) and forensic genetics. While aDNA studies typically center around human evolution and past history, and forensic genetics is often more concerned with identifying a specific individual, scientists in both fields face similar challenges. The overlap in source material has prompted periodic discussions and studies on the advantages of collaboration between fields toward mutually beneficial methodological advancements. However, most have been centered around wet laboratory methods (sampling, DNA extraction, library preparation, etc.). In this review, we focus on the computational side of the analytical workflow. We discuss limitations and considerations to consider when working with degraded DNA. We hope this review provides a framework to researchers new to computational workflows for how to think about analyzing highly degraded DNA and prompts an increase of collaboration between the forensic genetics and aDNA fields.

RevDate: 2023-11-03

Fracasso I, Zaccone C, Oskolkov N, et al (2023)

Exploring different methodological approaches to unlock paleobiodiversity in peat profiles using ancient DNA.

The Science of the total environment pii:S0048-9697(23)06786-4 [Epub ahead of print].

Natural and human-induced environmental changes deeply affected terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Holocene. Paleoenvironmental reconstructions provide information about the past and allow us to predict/model future scenarios. Among potential records, peat bogs are widely used because they present a precise stratigraphy and act as natural archives of highly diverse organic remains. Over the decades, several techniques have been developed to identify organic remains, including their morphological description. However, this is strongly constrained by the researcher's ability to identify residues at the species level, which typically requires many years of experience. In addition, potential contamination hampers using these techniques to obtain information from organisms such as fungi or bacteria. Environmental DNA metabarcoding and shotgun metagenome sequencing could represent a solution to detect specific groups of organisms without any a priori knowledge of their characteristics and/or to identify organisms that have rarely been considered in previous investigations. Moreover, shotgun metagenomics may allow the identification of bacteria and fungi (including both yeast and filamentous life forms), ensuring discrimination between ancient and modern organisms through the study of deamination/damage patterns. In the present review, we aim to i) present the state-of-the-art methodologies in paleoecological and paleoclimatic studies focusing on peat core analyses, proposing alternative approaches to the classical morphological identification of plant residues, and ii) suggest biomolecular approaches that will allow the use of proxies such as invertebrates, fungi, and bacteria, which are rarely employed in paleoenvironmental reconstructions.

RevDate: 2023-11-02
CmpDate: 2023-11-02

Pittman M, Y Wang (2023)

Paleoecology of extinct species.

BMC ecology and evolution, 23(1):59.

Recent developments, including new imaging and ancient environmental DNA (aeDNA) technologies, are providing unprecedented insights into the past, which can also help researchers predict future ecological change. BMC Ecology and Evolution has launched a new article Collection on the "Paleoecology of extinct species" to provide an open-access resource for all interested in this multidisciplinary field.

RevDate: 2023-11-01

Seeber PA, Palmer Z, Schmidt A, et al (2023)

The first European woolly rhinoceros mitogenomes, retrieved from cave hyena coprolites, suggest long-term phylogeographic differentiation.

Biology letters, 19(11):20230343.

The woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) is an iconic species of the Eurasian Pleistocene megafauna, which was abundant in Eurasia in the Pleistocene until its demise beginning approximately 10 000 years ago. Despite the early recovery of several specimens from well-known European archaeological sites, including its type specimen (Blumenbach 1799), no genomes of European populations were available so far, and all available genomic data originated exclusively from Siberian populations. Using coprolites of cave hyenas (Crocuta crocuta spelea) recovered from Middle Palaeolithic layers of two caves in Germany (Bockstein-Loch and Hohlenstein-Stadel), we isolated and enriched predator and prey DNA to assemble the first European woolly rhinoceros mitogenomes, in addition to cave hyena mitogenomes. Both coprolite samples produced copious sequences assigned to C. crocuta (27% and 59% mitogenome coverage, respectively) and woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis; 27% and 81% coverage, respectively). The sequences suggested considerable DNA degradation, which may limit the conclusions to be drawn; however, the mitogenomes of European woolly rhinoceros are genetically distinct from the Siberian woolly rhinoceros, and analyses of the more complete mitogenome suggest a split of the populations potentially coinciding with the earliest fossil records of woolly rhinoceros in Europe.

RevDate: 2023-11-01

Zhur KV, Sharko FS, Sedov VV, et al (2023)

The Rurikids: The First Experience of Reconstructing the Genetic Portrait of the Ruling Family of Medieval Rus' Based on Paleogenomic Data.

Acta naturae, 15(3):50-65.

The Rurikids were the reigning house of Rus', its principalities and, ultimately the Tsardom of Russia, for seven centuries: from the IX to the end of the XVI century. According to the Primary Chronicle (the Tale of Bygone Years), the main chronicle of Rus', the Rurik dynasty was founded by the Varangian prince Rurik, invited to reign in Novgorod in 862, but still there is no direct genetic evidence of the origin of the early Rurikids. This research, for the first time, provides a genome-wide paleogenetic analysis of bone remains belonging to one of the Rurikids, Prince Dmitry Alexandrovich (?-1294), the son of the Grand Prince of Vladimir Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky (1221-1263). It has been established that his Y chromosome belongs to the N1a haplogroup. Most of the modern Rurikids, according to their genealogies, belonging to the N1a haplogroup, have the most similar variants of Y chromosomes to each other, as well as to the Y chromosome of Prince Dmitry Alexandrovich. Genome-wide data of the medieval and modern Rurikids unequivocally indicates that they belong to the N1a haplogroup of the Y chromosome, starting at least from the XI century (since the time of Prince Yaroslav the Wise). All the other alleged Rurikids, both ancient and modern, being carriers of other haplogroups (R1a, I2a), possess high heterogeneity of the sequence of Y chromosomes, meaning that we cannot confirm their common ancestry. The most probable ancestors of Prince Dmitry Alexandrovich in the male line were the men who left the burial ground Bolshoy Oleny Island on the coast of the Kola Peninsula about 3,600 years ago. The reconstruction of the genome of Prince Dmitry Alexandrovich indicates the contribution of three ancestral components to his origin: (1) the early medieval population of the east of Scandinavia from the island of Oland, (2) representatives of the steppe nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes of the Iron Age or the early medieval population of central Europe (steppe nomads from the territory of Hungary), and (3) the ancient East-Eurasian component. Reliable statistics were also obtained when the Scandinavians were replaced with the Medieval Russian Slavic populations of the XI century. Thus, for the first time, we have shown the complex nature of interethnic interactions in the formation of the nobility of medieval Rus' on the example of the ancient Rurikid.

RevDate: 2023-11-01

Zedda N, Meheux K, Blöcher J, et al (2023)

Biological and substitute parents in Beaker period adult-child graves.

Scientific reports, 13(1):18765.

Joint inhumations of adults and children are an intriguing aspect of the shift from collective to single burial rites in third millennium BC Western Eurasia. Here, we revisit two exceptional Beaker period adult-child graves using ancient DNA: Altwies in Luxembourg and Dunstable Downs in Britain. Ancestry modelling and patterns of shared IBD segments between the individuals examined, and contemporary genomes from Central and Northwest Europe, highlight the continental connections of British Beakers. Although simultaneous burials may involve individuals with no social or biological ties, we present evidence that close blood relations played a role in shaping third millennium BC social systems and burial practices, for example a biological mother and her son buried together at Altwies. Extended family, such as a paternal aunt at Dunstable Downs, could also act as 'substitute parents' in the grave. Hypotheses are explored to explain such simultaneous inhumations. Whilst intercommunity violence, infectious disease and epidemics may be considered as explanations, they fail to account for both the specific, codified nature of this particular form of inhumation, and its pervasiveness, as evidenced by a representative sample of 131 adult-child graves from 88 sites across Eurasia, all dating to the third and second millennia BC.

RevDate: 2023-10-31

Cheng X, M Steinrücken (2023)

diplo-locus: A lightweight toolkit for inference and simulation of time-series genetic data under general diploid selection.

bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology pii:2023.10.12.562101.

SUMMARY: Whole-genome time-series allele frequency data are becoming more prevalent as ancient DNA (aDNA) sequences and data from evolve-and-resequence (E&R) experiments are generated at a rapid pace. Such data presents unprecedented opportunities to elucidate the dynamics of adaptative genetic variation. However, despite many methods to infer parameters of selection models from allele frequency trajectories available in the literature, few provide user-friendly implementations for large-scale empirical applications. Here, we present diplo-locus , an open-source Python package that provides functionality to simulate and perform inference from time-series under the Wright-Fisher diffusion with general diploid selection. The package includes Python modules as well as command-line tools.

AVAILABILITY: Python package and command-line tool avilable at: or .

RevDate: 2023-10-31

Poyraz L, Colbran LL, I Mathieson (2023)

Predicting functional consequences of recent natural selection in Britain.

bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology pii:2023.10.16.562549.

Ancient DNA can directly reveal the contribution of natural selection to human genomic variation. However, while the analysis of ancient DNA has been successful at identifying genomic signals of selection, inferring the phenotypic consequences of that selection has been more difficult. Most trait-associated variants are non-coding, so we expect that a large proportion of the phenotypic effects of selection will also act through non-coding variation. Since we cannot measure gene expression directly in ancient individuals, we used an approach (Joint-Tissue Imputation ; JTI) developed to predict gene expression from genotype data. We tested for changes in the predicted expression of 17,384 protein coding genes over a time transect of 4500 years using 91 present-day and 616 ancient individuals from Britain. We identified 28 genes at seven genomic loci with significant (FDR < 0.05) changes in predicted expression levels in this time period. We compared the results from our transcriptome-wide scan to a genome-wide scan based on estimating per-SNP selection coefficients from time series data. At five previously identified loci, our approach allowed us to highlight small numbers of genes with evidence for significant shifts in expression from peaks that in some cases span tens of genes. At two novel loci (SLC44A5 and NUP85), we identify selection on gene expression not captured by scans based on genomic signatures of selection. Finally we show how classical selection statistics (iHS and SDS) can be combined with JTI models to incorporate functional information into scans that use present-day data alone. These results demonstrate the potential of this type of information to explore both the causes and consequences of natural selection.

RevDate: 2023-10-30

Papa V, Galassi FM, Varotto E, et al (2023)

The Evolution of Diagnostic Techniques in the Paleopathology of Tuberculosis: A Scoping Review.

Pathogens & immunity, 8(1):93-116.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an ancient chronic infectious disease that remains a global health concern. In human remains, the most common and characteristic clinical signs are the skeletal modifications involving the spine, such as in Pott's disease. Diagnosing TB in ancient human remains is challenging. Therefore, in this systematic review, the authors investigated the studies assessing molecular diagnosis of Pott's disease in ancient human remains with the intention to survey the literature, map the evidence, and identify gaps and future perspectives on TB in paleopathology. Our systematic review offers a full contextualization of the history of Pott's disease in ancient times. Our search strategy was performed between August 2022 and March 2023. The authors initially identified 340 records, and 74 studies were finally included and assessed for qualitative analysis. Due to non-specific clinical signs associated with TB, how best to diagnose tuberculosis in human remains still represents a central point. Nevertheless, ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis, lipid biomarkers, and spoligotyping might be extremely useful tools in the study of TB in human remains. Moreover, we propose the extraction and study of immune response genes involved in innate and adaptive immunity versus Mycobacterium spp. as an innovative and vastly overlooked approach in TB paleopathology. Complementary methodologies should be integrated to provide the best approach to the study of TB in human remains.

RevDate: 2023-10-28

Uricoechea Patiño D, Collins A, García OJR, et al (2023)

High Mitochondrial Haplotype Diversity Found in Three Pre-Hispanic Groups from Colombia.

Genes, 14(10): pii:genes14101853.

The analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable region (HVR) sequence data from ancient human remains provides valuable insights into the genetic structure and population dynamics of ancient populations. mtDNA is particularly useful in studying ancient populations, because it is maternally inherited and has a higher mutation rate compared to nuclear DNA. To determine the genetic structure of three Colombian pre-Hispanic populations and compare them with current populations, we determined the haplotypes from human bone remains by sequencing several mitochondrial DNA segments. A wide variety of mitochondrial polymorphisms were obtained from 33 samples. Our results support a high population heterogeneity among pre-Hispanic populations in Colombia.

RevDate: 2023-10-28

Pusadkar V, RK Azad (2023)

Benchmarking Metagenomic Classifiers on Simulated Ancient and Modern Metagenomic Data.

Microorganisms, 11(10): pii:microorganisms11102478.

Taxonomic profiling of ancient metagenomic samples is challenging due to the accumulation of specific damage patterns on DNA over time. Although a number of methods for metagenome profiling have been developed, most of them have been assessed on modern metagenomes or simulated metagenomes mimicking modern metagenomes. Further, a comparative assessment of metagenome profilers on simulated metagenomes representing a spectrum of degradation depth, from the extremity of ancient (most degraded) to current or modern (not degraded) metagenomes, has not yet been performed. To understand the strengths and weaknesses of different metagenome profilers, we performed their comprehensive evaluation on simulated metagenomes representing human dental calculus microbiome, with the level of DNA damage successively raised to mimic modern to ancient metagenomes. All classes of profilers, namely, DNA-to-DNA, DNA-to-protein, and DNA-to-marker comparison-based profilers were evaluated on metagenomes with varying levels of damage simulating deamination, fragmentation, and contamination. Our results revealed that, compared to deamination and fragmentation, human and environmental contamination of ancient DNA (with modern DNA) has the most pronounced effect on the performance of each profiler. Further, the DNA-to-DNA (e.g., Kraken2, Bracken) and DNA-to-marker (e.g., MetaPhlAn4) based profiling approaches showed complementary strengths, which can be leveraged to elevate the state-of-the-art of ancient metagenome profiling.

RevDate: 2023-10-26

Anonymous (2023)

Ancient DNA reveals traces of elusive first humans in Europe.

RevDate: 2023-10-25

Duitama González C, Rangavittal S, Vicedomini R, et al (2023)

aKmerBroom: Ancient oral DNA decontamination using Bloom filters on k-mer sets.

iScience, 26(11):108057.

Dental calculus samples are modeled as a mixture of DNA coming from dental plaque and contaminants. Current computational decontamination methods such as Recentrifuge and DeconSeq require either a reference database or sequenced negative controls, and therefore have limited use cases. We present a reference-free decontamination tool tailored for the removal of contaminant DNA of ancient oral sample called aKmerBroom. Our tool builds a Bloom filter of known ancient and modern oral k-mers, then scans an input set of ancient metagenomic reads using multiple passes to iteratively retain reads likely to be of oral origin. On synthetic data, aKmerBroom achieves over 89.53% sensitivity and 94.00% specificity. On real datasets, aKmerBroom shows higher read retainment (+60% on average) than other methods. We anticipate aKmerBroom will be a valuable tool for the processing of ancient oral samples as it will prevent contaminated datasets from being completely discarded in downstream analyses.

RevDate: 2023-10-24

Kim AS, Kreiner JM, Hernández F, et al (2023)

Temporal collections to study invasion biology.

Molecular ecology [Epub ahead of print].

Biological invasions represent an extraordinary opportunity to study evolution. This is because accidental or deliberate species introductions have taken place for centuries across large geographical scales, frequently prompting rapid evolutionary transitions in invasive populations. Until recently, however, the utility of invasions as evolutionary experiments has been hampered by limited information on the makeup of populations that were part of earlier invasion stages. Now, developments in ancient and historical DNA technologies, as well as the quickening pace of digitization for millions of specimens that are housed in herbaria and museums globally, promise to help overcome this obstacle. In this review, we first introduce the types of temporal data that can be used to study invasions, highlighting the timescale captured by each approach and their respective limitations. We then discuss how ancient and historical specimens as well as data available from prior invasion studies can be used to answer questions on mechanisms of (mal)adaptation, rates of evolution, or community-level changes during invasions. By bridging the gap between contemporary and historical invasive populations, temporal data can help us connect pattern to process in invasion science. These data will become increasingly important if invasions are to achieve their full potential as experiments of evolution in nature.

RevDate: 2023-10-24

Grathwol F, Roos C, Zinner D, et al (2023)

Adulis and the transshipment of baboons during classical antiquity.

eLife, 12: pii:87513.

Adulis, located on the Red Sea coast in present-day Eritrea, was a bustling trading centre between the first and seventh centuries CE. Several classical geographers-Agatharchides of Cnidus, Pliny the Elder, Strabo-noted the value of Adulis to Greco-Roman Egypt, particularly as an emporium for living animals, including baboons (Papio spp.). Though fragmentary, these accounts predict the Adulite origins of mummified baboons in Ptolemaic catacombs, while inviting questions on the geoprovenance of older (Late Period) baboons recovered from Gabbanat el-Qurud ('Valley of the Monkeys'), Egypt. Dated to ca. 800-540 BCE, these animals could extend the antiquity of Egyptian-Adulite trade by as much as five centuries. Previously, Dominy et al. (2020) used stable isotope analysis to show that two New Kingdom specimens of Papio hamadryas originate from the Horn of Africa. Here, we report the complete mitochondrial genomes from a mummified baboon from Gabbanat el-Qurud and 14 museum specimens with known provenance together with published georeferenced mitochondrial sequence data. Phylogenetic assignment connects the mummified baboon to modern populations of P. hamadryas in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and eastern Sudan. This result, assuming geographical stability of phylogenetic clades, corroborates Greco-Roman historiographies by pointing toward present-day Eritrea, and by extension Adulis, as a source of baboons for Late Period Egyptians. It also establishes geographic continuity with baboons from the fabled Land of Punt (Dominy et al., 2020), giving weight to speculation that Punt and Adulis were essentially the same trading centres separated by a thousand years of history.

RevDate: 2023-10-23

Pochon Z, Bergfeldt N, Kırdök E, et al (2023)

aMeta: an accurate and memory-efficient ancient metagenomic profiling workflow.

Genome biology, 24(1):242.

Analysis of microbial data from archaeological samples is a growing field with great potential for understanding ancient environments, lifestyles, and diseases. However, high error rates have been a challenge in ancient metagenomics, and the availability of computational frameworks that meet the demands of the field is limited. Here, we propose aMeta, an accurate metagenomic profiling workflow for ancient DNA designed to minimize the amount of false discoveries and computer memory requirements. Using simulated data, we benchmark aMeta against a current state-of-the-art workflow and demonstrate its superiority in microbial detection and authentication, as well as substantially lower usage of computer memory.

RevDate: 2023-10-23

Skantharajah N, Baichoo S, Boughtwood TF, et al (2023)

Equity, diversity, and inclusion at the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health.

Cell genomics, 3(10):100386.

A lack of diversity in genomics for health continues to hinder equitable leadership and access to precision medicine approaches for underrepresented populations. To avoid perpetuating biases within the genomics workforce and genomic data collection practices, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) must be addressed. This paper documents the journey taken by the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (a genomics-based standard-setting and policy-framing organization) to create a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment for its standards and members. Initial steps include the creation of two groups: the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Group and the Regulatory and Ethics Diversity Group. Following a framework that we call "Reflected in our Teams, Reflected in our Standards," both groups address EDI at different stages in their policy development process.

RevDate: 2023-10-19

Vilgalys TP, Klunk J, Demeure CE, et al (2023)

Reply to Barton et al: signatures of natural selection during the Black Death.

bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology.

Barton et al.[1] raise several statistical concerns regarding our original analyses[2] that highlight the challenge of inferring natural selection using ancient genomic data. We show here that these concerns have limited impact on our original conclusions. Specifically, we recover the same signature of enrichment for high FST values at the immune loci relative to putatively neutral sites after switching the allele frequency estimation method to a maximum likelihood approach, filtering to only consider known human variants, and down-sampling our data to the same mean coverage across sites. Furthermore, using permutations, we show that the rs2549794 variant near ERAP2 continues to emerge as the strongest candidate for selection (p = 1.2×10[-5]), falling below the Bonferroni-corrected significance threshold recommended by Barton et al. Importantly, the evidence for selection on ERAP2 is further supported by functional data demonstrating the impact of the ERAP2 genotype on the immune response to Y. pestis and by epidemiological data from an independent group showing that the putatively selected allele during the Black Death protects against severe respiratory infection in contemporary populations.

RevDate: 2023-10-18

Tao L, Yuan H, Zhu K, et al (2023)

Ancient genomes reveal millet farming-related demic diffusion from the Yellow River into southwest China.

Current biology : CB pii:S0960-9822(23)01303-9 [Epub ahead of print].

The study of southwest China is vital for understanding the dispersal and development of farming because of the coexistence of millet and rice in this region since the Neolithic period.[1][,][2] However, the process of the Neolithic transition in southwest China is largely unknown, mainly due to the lack of ancient DNA from the Neolithic period. Here, we report genome-wide data from 11 human samples from the Gaoshan and Haimenkou sites with mixed farming of millet and rice dating to between 4,500 and 3,000 years before present in southwest China. The two ancient groups derived approximately 90% of their ancestry from the Neolithic Yellow River farmers, suggesting a demic diffusion of millet farming to southwest China. We inferred their remaining ancestry to be derived from a Hòabìnhian-related hunter-gatherer lineage. We did not detect rice farmer-related ancestry in the two ancient groups, which indicates that they likely adopted rice farming without genetic assimilation. We, however, observed rice farmer-related ancestry in the formation of some present-day Tibeto-Burman populations. Our results suggested the occurrence of both demic and cultural diffusion in the development of Neolithic mixed farming in some parts of southwest China.

RevDate: 2023-10-16

Lucquin A, Robson HK, Oras E, et al (2023)

The impact of farming on prehistoric culinary practices throughout Northern Europe.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 120(43):e2310138120.

To investigate changes in culinary practices associated with the arrival of farming, we analysed the organic residues of over 1,000 pottery vessels from hunter-gatherer-fisher and early agricultural sites across Northern Europe from the Lower Rhine Basin to the Northeastern Baltic. Here, pottery was widely used by hunter-gatherer-fishers prior to the introduction of domesticated animals and plants. Overall, there was surprising continuity in the way that hunter-gatherer-fishers and farmers used pottery. Both aquatic products and wild plants remained prevalent, a pattern repeated consistently across the study area. We argue that the rapid adaptation of farming communities to exploit coastal and lagoonal resources facilitated their northerly expansion, and in some cases, hunting, gathering, and fishing became the most dominant subsistence strategy. Nevertheless, dairy products frequently appear in pottery associated with the earliest farming groups often mixed with wild plants and fish. Interestingly, we also find compelling evidence of dairy products in hunter-gatherer-fisher Ertebølle pottery, which predates the arrival of domesticated animals. We propose that Ertebølle hunter-gatherer-fishers frequently acquired dairy products through exchange with adjacent farming communities prior to the transition. The continuity observed in pottery use across the transition to farming contrasts with the analysis of human remains which shows substantial demographic change through ancient DNA and, in some cases, a reduction in marine consumption through stable isotope analysis. We postulate that farmers acquired the knowledge and skills they needed to succeed from local hunter-gatherer-fishers but without substantial admixture.

RevDate: 2023-10-14

Papalini S, Di Vittori V, Pieri A, et al (2023)

Challenges and Opportunities behind the Use of Herbaria in Paleogenomics Studies.

Plants (Basel, Switzerland), 12(19): pii:plants12193452.

Paleogenomics focuses on the recovery, manipulation, and analysis of ancient DNA (aDNA) from historical or long-dead organisms to reconstruct and analyze their genomes. The aDNA is commonly obtained from remains found in paleontological and archaeological sites, conserved in museums, and in other archival collections. Herbarium collections represent a great source of phenotypic and genotypic information, and their exploitation has allowed for inference and clarification of previously unsolved taxonomic and systematic relationships. Moreover, herbarium specimens offered a new source for studying phenological traits in plants and for disentangling biogeography and evolutionary scenarios of species. More recently, advances in molecular technologies went in parallel with the decreasing costs of next-generation sequencing (NGS) approaches, which paved the way to the utilization of aDNA for whole-genome studies. Although many studies have been carried out combining modern analytic techniques and ancient samples, such as herbarium specimens, this research field is still relatively unexplored due to the need for improving strategies for aDNA manipulation and exploitation from ancient samples. The higher susceptibility of aDNA to degradation and contamination during herbarium conservation and manipulation and the occurrence of biochemical postmortem damage can result in a more challenging reconstruction of the original DNA sequence. Here, we review the methodological approaches that have been developed for the exploitation of historical herbarium plant materials, such as best practices for aDNA extraction, amplification, and genotyping. We also focus on some strategies to overcome the main problems related to the utilization of herbarium specimens for their exploitation in plant evolutionary studies.

RevDate: 2023-10-13

Muschick M, Jemmi E, Lengacher N, et al (2023)

Ancient DNA is preserved in fish fossils from tropical lake sediments.

Molecular ecology [Epub ahead of print].

Tropical freshwater lakes are well known for their high biodiversity, and particularly the East African Great Lakes are renowned for their adaptive radiation of cichlid fishes. While comparative phylogenetic analyses of extant species flocks have revealed patterns and processes of their diversification, little is known about evolutionary trajectories within lineages, the impacts of environmental drivers, or the scope and nature of now-extinct diversity. Time-structured palaeodata from geologically young fossil records, such as fossil counts and particularly ancient DNA (aDNA) data, would help fill this large knowledge gap. High ambient temperatures can be detrimental to the preservation of DNA, but refined methodology now allows data generation even from very poorly preserved samples. Here, we show for the first time that fish fossils from tropical lake sediments yield endogenous aDNA. Despite generally low endogenous content and high sample dropout, the application of high-throughput sequencing and, in some cases, sequence capture allowed taxonomic assignment and phylogenetic placement of 17% of analysed fish fossils to family or tribe level, including remains which are up to 2700 years old or weigh less than 1 mg. The relationship between aDNA degradation and the thermal age of samples is similar to that described for terrestrial samples from cold environments when adjusted for elevated temperature. Success rates and aDNA preservation differed between the investigated lakes Chala, Kivu and Victoria, possibly caused by differences in bottom water oxygenation. Our study demonstrates that the sediment records of tropical lakes can preserve genetic information on rapidly diversifying fish taxa over time scales of millennia.


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In the early 1990's, Robert Robbins was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins, where he directed the informatics core of GDB — the human gene-mapping database of the international human genome project. To share papers with colleagues around the world, he set up a small paper-sharing section on his personal web page. This small project evolved into The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project.

ESP Support

In 1995, Robbins became the VP/IT of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. Soon after arriving in Seattle, Robbins secured funding, through the ELSI component of the US Human Genome Project, to create the original ESP.ORG web site, with the formal goal of providing free, world-wide access to the literature of classical genetics.

ESP Rationale

Although the methods of molecular biology can seem almost magical to the uninitiated, the original techniques of classical genetics are readily appreciated by one and all: cross individuals that differ in some inherited trait, collect all of the progeny, score their attributes, and propose mechanisms to explain the patterns of inheritance observed.

ESP Goal

In reading the early works of classical genetics, one is drawn, almost inexorably, into ever more complex models, until molecular explanations begin to seem both necessary and natural. At that point, the tools for understanding genome research are at hand. Assisting readers reach this point was the original goal of The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project.

ESP Usage

Usage of the site grew rapidly and has remained high. Faculty began to use the site for their assigned readings. Other on-line publishers, ranging from The New York Times to Nature referenced ESP materials in their own publications. Nobel laureates (e.g., Joshua Lederberg) regularly used the site and even wrote to suggest changes and improvements.

ESP Content

When the site began, no journals were making their early content available in digital format. As a result, ESP was obliged to digitize classic literature before it could be made available. For many important papers — such as Mendel's original paper or the first genetic map — ESP had to produce entirely new typeset versions of the works, if they were to be available in a high-quality format.

ESP Help

Early support from the DOE component of the Human Genome Project was critically important for getting the ESP project on a firm foundation. Since that funding ended (nearly 20 years ago), the project has been operated as a purely volunteer effort. Anyone wishing to assist in these efforts should send an email to Robbins.

ESP Plans

With the development of methods for adding typeset side notes to PDF files, the ESP project now plans to add annotated versions of some classical papers to its holdings. We also plan to add new reference and pedagogical material. We have already started providing regularly updated, comprehensive bibliographies to the ESP.ORG site.

Electronic Scholarly Publishing
961 Red Tail Lane
Bellingham, WA 98226

E-mail: RJR8222 @

Papers in Classical Genetics

The ESP began as an effort to share a handful of key papers from the early days of classical genetics. Now the collection has grown to include hundreds of papers, in full-text format.

Digital Books

Along with papers on classical genetics, ESP offers a collection of full-text digital books, including many works by Darwin and even a collection of poetry — Chicago Poems by Carl Sandburg.


ESP now offers a large collection of user-selected side-by-side timelines (e.g., all science vs. all other categories, or arts and culture vs. world history), designed to provide a comparative context for appreciating world events.


Biographical information about many key scientists (e.g., Walter Sutton).

Selected Bibliographies

Bibliographies on several topics of potential interest to the ESP community are automatically maintained and generated on the ESP site.

ESP Picks from Around the Web (updated 07 JUL 2018 )