World’s oldest DNA is recovered from a 400,000-year-old thigh bone – and provides a new jigsaw piece in the history of evolution

  • Scientist reconstructed the mitochondrial genome from two grams of bone
  • They found early humans shared a common ancestor with the Denisovans
  • This was suprising as early humans were thought to share a common ancestor with Neanderthals due to similar skeletal features

By  Ellie Zolfagharifard

PUBLISHED: 13:09 EST, 4 December 2013 |  UPDATED: 13:47 EST, 4 December 2013

The world’s oldest human DNA has been recovered from the thigh bone of an ancestor that walked the Earth 400,000 years ago.

It belonged to a hominin, or early human, known as Homo heidelbergensis and provides a new vital piece of the jigsaw in the story of evolution.

Using a technique for retrieving and sequencing highly degraded ancient DNA, scientists were able to reconstruct the almost complete mitochondrial (mt) genome from just two grams of bone powder.


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