The first known Neanderthal family was found in Russian caves

The first known Neanderthal family was found in Russian caves

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Scientists have for the first time uncovered the remains of a closely related Neanderthal group, including a family – a father and his daughter – in a Russian cave, providing a rare window into antiquity.

The lineage was discovered in the largest genetic study of Neanderthal populations to date. Published this week In the journal Nature. Scientists suspect that they died together about 54,000 years ago – perhaps tragically, from starvation or a big storm – in the mountains of southern Siberia. They lived on a rocky hill outside the Neanderthals known rangewhich extends from the Atlantic region of Europe to Central Asia.

The social organization of Neanderthal populations is not well understood. Recent research suggests that in Siberia at least, Neanderthals lived in groups of 10 to 20 – similar to modern-day mountain gorillas, which are an endangered species.

The research was conducted by a global team of scientists, including Swedish geneticist Svante Pabo, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine this month. His work is mapping our genetic links to Neanderthals.

Nobel Prize-winning Swedish scientist who deciphered the Neanderthal genome

Unlike many archaeological sites, which contain fossils made over a long period of time, genetic studies of 11 Neanderthals found in Chagirskaya Cave – in the Altai Mountains near the Russian border with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China – show that many of them were closely related, suggesting they all lived at the same time.

“Chagirskaya Cave is essentially a moment in time 54,000 years ago when this community lived and died in this cave,” said Richard G. Roberts, a scholar at the University of Wollongong in Australia and one of the study’s co-authors. In an interview.

“Most archaeological sites, things tend to slowly accumulate and get chewed up by hyenas or something like that,” he said. “You’ll never find a site full of really good content. It was full of bones, Neanderthal bones, animal bones, artifacts. It’s a moment, literally frozen in time.”

Scientists used DNA from fossils found in Chagirskaya Cave and two other Neanderthals found in a nearby cave to map the relationships between the individuals and search for clues to how they lived.

Chagirskaya Cave is located high on the hillside, overlooking a flood plain where herds of bison and other animals likely grazed, Roberts said. Researchers found stone tools and bison bones buried in the cave alongside the ruins.

Genetic information obtained from teeth and bone fragments showed that the individuals included a father and his daughter and a pair of second-degree relatives, possibly an aunt or uncle, a niece or nephew, Roberts said. father’s Mitochondrial DNA One set of genes is passed from mothers to their offspring — as were the other two men in the cave, he said, indicating that they likely had a common maternal ancestor.

“They’re so closely related, it’s really like a clan living in these caves,” he said. “The thought that they could continue from generation to generation seems improbable. I think they probably died very close all the time. Perhaps it was a terrible storm. They are in Siberia.

The study also revealed that the genetic diversity of the Y chromosome (which is only passed down through the male line) was much lower than that of the individuals’ mitochondrial DNA, which the authors say suggests Neanderthal females were more likely to migrate. Men This pattern is also seen in many human societies, where women marry before having children and move in with their husbands’ families.

Previous work by Swedish geneticist Pabo has shown that Neanderthals intermingled with prehistoric humans after migrating out of Africa, and traces of those interactions live in the genomes of many present-day humans. During the epidemic, he found that a genetic risk factor was associated with it Severe cases of Covid-19 Descended from Neanderthals carried by about half the people in South Asia and about 1 in 6 people in Europe.

The authors state that the sample size of the recent study is small and may not be representative of the social life of the entire Neanderthal population.

“If only we could reproduce [the study] In a few more places, then we’ll really understand how Neanderthals lived their lives, maybe some indication of why they went extinct and we didn’t,” said Australian scholar Roberts.We are so similar. So why are we the only ones left around the planet?

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