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Oldest DNA Recovered From 7,000-Year-Old Skeletons In Spain 146

Posted by samzenpus
from the original-markers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers published a paper in the current issue of Current Biology detailing their analysis of DNA from 7,000-year old cavemen in northern Spain. From the article: 'The bones of the two young adult males were found in a cave in the Cantabarian mountain range in 2006 by a handful of explorers, 4,920 feet above sea level. The cold atmosphere is what preserved the DNA in the remains of the two bodies. The cavemen lived during the Mesolithic period and were hunter-gatherers, as determined by an ornament one of the skeletons was holding. They have named the two skeletons Braña1 and Braña2 after the Braña-Arintero site in which they were discovered. They were in near-perfect condition.'"
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Oldest DNA Recovered From 7,000-Year-Old Skeletons In Spain

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  • JP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kh31d4r (2591021) on Monday July 02, 2012 @04:54AM (#40515435)
    When are we cloning dinosaurs?
    • When are we cloning dinosaurs?

      Why should we?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Pfft, dinosaurs?

      When are we cloning skeletons?
      I'd imagine they would walk like Jason and the Argonauts' skeletons [youtube.com]

    • by azalin (67640)
      They already did that. There are several documentaries about it. It's called Juicy K Park or sth like that
    • Re:JP (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 02, 2012 @07:56AM (#40516087)

      No time soon. Despite earlier signs, there has been no legitimate DNA recovery from the Mesozoic, the time of the dinosaurs. All the earlier discoveries from amber of that age have turned out to be bogus, as have claims of obtaining DNA from dinosaur bone (it was contamination). In fact, the story is the same for most younger examples too. The oldest legitimate DNA is no more than a few tens of thousands of years old, and very fragmentary. So, we may get information from mammoths, moas, and giant sloths of the Pleistocene, but apparently nothing from extinct dinosaurs. Check this paper [nhm.ac.uk] [PDF] and this one [www.ul.pt] [PDF] for short reviews, and this one [mcmaster.ca] for a longer review.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Your links are a little dated since as of the most recent, dinosaur soft tissues have been discovered intact. Like T. Rexas blood vessels. See here [smithsonianmag.com]. Granted it was only in 2006, but I was surprised none of the links were more recent.

        While this particular discovery didn't provide us with DNA, it does give more hints to the biology of dinosaurs in light of the absense of DNA. Though not equivocal, still very important to our understanding, as some conclusions can be drawn from soft tissue structure.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Excellent TED talk on this. Jack Horner's team is taking a novel...somewhat terrifying approach since there's no DNA available, but he spends a LOT of time talking about trying to get some viable DNA from various sources:

        http://www.ted.com/talks/jack_horner_building_a_dinosaur_from_a_chicken.html

      • by jd (1658)

        We have perfectly intact microbial DNA from 45 million years.

    • Actually it is easier to regress chickens into dinosaurs by screwing around with the on/off switches in their DNA. Which by the way is already being done.....
      • I saw that in the discovery channel. I think the guy was talking about doing the same with emus or ostriches. Of course, it might also be that I saw the chicken embryos he'd been messing with and started thinking about an ostrich with teeth, scales, arms with clawed digits, and a tail as long as the rest of its body.
    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      When are we cloning dinosaurs?

      We are already. Interesting, commercially useful dinosaurs, like chickens and ducks ; rare ones like various raptors ; perhaps interestingly commercial ones (could we back-breed moa, for food?).

      Oh, you meant cloning long-extinct dinosaurs. You provide the genetic material, I'm sure someone will want to do it. Could be interesting - but not more interesting than having the genetic material itself.

      (I disagree with Bob Bakker. Birds Are not Dinosaur Descendants ; birds are dinos

  • by bmo (77928) on Monday July 02, 2012 @04:55AM (#40515445)

    They were planted there by Satan to test your faith in the Earth being 6000 years old.

    --
    BMO

    • Whaddya mean?

      Everyone knows humans and dinosaurs lived side by side. It was on tv, for Christ's sake. Ever hear of the Flintstones?

      • Everyone knows humans and dinosaurs lived side by side.

        This article proves it. These cavemen were only 6000 years old, not millions of years old. Dinosaurs were also around 6000 years ago, when God created the planet. After these two cavemen died their pet dinosaurs dragged them up on a mountain and ate them, leaving the bones for archaeologists to discover now. Then the dinosaurs died in a flood.

      • Current Internet thinking is that the Flintstones takes place in the future, concurrently with the Jetsons.

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Pretty tricky for Satan to plant those skeletons before God created the world. For that he'd have had to have the plans for human beings before God made them. Did he steal the plans and that's what got him in trouble with the Almighty? Or did he invent us and God had to wait for his patents to expire before he could create his own people?
  • Where are the 7000 year old cavewomen?!

  • Oldest human dna (Score:5, Informative)

    by tinkerton (199273) on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:41AM (#40515611)

    It's not the oldest dna, but the oldest human DNA that they've found. This site [creation.com] reports DNA extracted from a 20 million year magnolia leaf.

  • by bhartman34 (886109) on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:42AM (#40515615)
    I thought that the earliest DNA recovered from early man was much older than this. Haven't we compared Neanderthal DNA to modern human DNA?
    • by lbbros (900904) on Monday July 02, 2012 @05:49AM (#40515649) Homepage
      As far as I can remember, these studies on Neanderthal used mitochondrial DNA (i.e., the DNA stored in the mitochondria, which is separate from the one in the nucleus) rather than genomic (i.e. the DNA in the nucleus of the cell).
      • by Dr La (1342733)
        Early studies into Neandertal genetics concerned MtDNA: but the latest studies concern nuclear DNA. By now, there is a complete Neandertal genome (pieced together from genomic fragments of various Neandertals).
  • by outsider007 (115534) on Monday July 02, 2012 @06:06AM (#40515709)

    Not perpetuating the stereotype of spaniards as gay cavemen.

  • an ornament? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by C0R1D4N (970153) on Monday July 02, 2012 @06:16AM (#40515745)
    Seems to be jumping to a conclusion saying they were hunter gatherers by an ornament one was holding. I mean, they probably were just by the lack of agricultural evidence from that era, but what you are holding when you die hardly indicates the nature of your entire culture.
    • by cmdr_tofu (826352)

      Yeah I could not find out what the ornament was. (Will have to wait until I can get to the University library to download the paper). I would believe something like fossilized poop or teeth abrasions as evidence of what they ate, but "an ornament" warrants more description and explanation. Was it a pictographic manual of hunter-gathering?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arth1 (260657)

      Seems to be jumping to a conclusion saying they were hunter gatherers by an ornament one was holding. I mean, they probably were just by the lack of agricultural evidence from that era, but what you are holding when you die hardly indicates the nature of your entire culture.

      This is the problem I have with mainstream archeology - the jump to conclusions based on scant evidence, often "supported" by jumps to conclusions others have made before, based on even scantier evidence.

      There's a round dimple in this wall? Obviously they were sun worshippers! The skeleton's tibia was broken? Obviously this was part of a human sacrifice, because they were sun worshippers!

      • Re:an ornament? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Monday July 02, 2012 @09:23AM (#40516567)
        In the first place, you're talking about anthropology, not archaeology. In the second place, that's how science works. If you have a hundred artifacts, you try to find a pattern from them, and then if somebody finds a hundred more that invalidate all or part of the previous hypothesized pattern, so be it. You come up with a new one that fits the available data.
        • by dargaud (518470)
          I think he has a point. In archeology, and even more so in anthropology, it seems that every new discovery invalidates or parallelizes the previous one. One example pisses me off: every >1Myo humanoid skeleton found is used to define a new branch of humanity (see 'flores'). You don't see this happen with other animals: if it looks like a coelacanth and it's been in a rock for 110 million years, then it's a coelacanth and they don't build bridges on it.

          Interpretation of artifacts and symbols is even mor
      • by Disfnord (1077111)

        Yeah, no archaeologist does that. Nice straw-man, though.

      • This is the problem I have with mainstream archeology - the jump to conclusions based on scant evidence, often "supported" by jumps to conclusions others have made before, based on even scantier evidence.

        There's a round dimple in this wall? Obviously they were sun worshippers! The skeleton's tibia was broken? Obviously this was part of a human sacrifice, because they were sun worshippers!

        You know Prometheus wasn't a documentary on proper anthropology, right?

        • by arth1 (260657)

          You know Prometheus wasn't a documentary on proper anthropology, right?

          If you mean the myth, I don't think that any a*ologists have suggested a religious connection for mastering fire. Yet. But give them a sliver of wood and they'll construct a temple from it. Preferably involving both murder and sex - it sells better that way.

          If you mean the movie, I haven't seen it and hope not to. The same might or might not apply, except that the murders and sex would be in 3D.

    • by epine (68316)

      ... but what you are holding when you die hardly indicates the nature of your entire culture ...

      Depends whether it's an iPhone. Twenty years ago I might have agreed with you.

    • Re:an ornament? (Score:5, Informative)

      by tomhath (637240) on Monday July 02, 2012 @09:08AM (#40516471)
      It's hard to tell from the article, but I got the impression these two were carefully buried in the cave by other humans. Articles that are buried along with a body tell a lot about the culture. These ornaments depict red deer, which they very likely hunted.
    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Presumably something made from an animal they would have had to hunt, maybe complete with tool marks showing they ate the meat. But maybe these two STOLE the ornament and really came from a robber-gatherer culture. Minus 50th century gangsters.
    • I can see it now--what future archeologists are saying about us:

      "We found his bones clutching an iPhone. He must have been one of these Scenesters we have culturally read about."

    • by bakes (87194)

      Of course they might not actually be 7000 years old. They could be 4000-year-old archeologists who dug up 7000-year-old hunter-gatherer tools.

  • I'd be much more interested in the DNA from these explorers that are so tiny that you can measure them by the handful.
  • This is bad (Score:5, Funny)

    by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Monday July 02, 2012 @08:26AM (#40516211) Journal
    Can't you even have privacy if you are dead for 7000 years?
  • by b_dover (773956)
    Anyone else find irony in the fact that a journal named Current Biology publishes an article about 7000 year old DNA?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windover [wikipedia.org]

    Radiocarbon dating on two bones excavated from the pond by the backhoe, paid for by the developers, yielded dates of 7,210 years and 7,320 years Before Present

  • Once we compare it to our modern DNA, this 7,000 year old sample will finally reveal to us the changes that the aliens have made to our DNA after thousands of years of genetic manipulation!
  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday July 02, 2012 @10:38AM (#40517057)
    And more detriorated. But shot-gun fragment analysis has recovered over 85% of a Neandertal genome. Enough to make detailed analysis to say how its related to homo sapiens.
  • ... Larry King?

  • The ten thousand year explosion [the10000ye...losion.com] theory of human evolution is that there has been an enormous change in the genetic character of humans during the last 10000 years.

    OK, so now we have a data point.

    Hmmmmm... maybe someone should inject formaldehyde "on a accident" to denature all the DNA before hate-facts surface.

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