Cave Bear DNA and Homo floresiensis

Cave Bear Skull Posted by Hello

In a previous post I mentioned that a large segment of the Cave bear genome had been sequenced. I also mentioned that the researchers responsible for sequencing the cave bear DNA were planning on trying the same techniques on neanderthal DNA. Well, there is a new wrinkle:
Homo floresiensis Posted by Hello

Another possibility is to apply these techniques to the remains of Homo floresiensis, found recently in Indonesia. Researchers nicknamed this human ancestor “the hobbit” because of its tiny stature. (See pictures of the hobbit.)

H. floresiensis is believed to have diverged from modern humans two million years ago. Neandertals may have diverged from humans 500,000 years ago.

The successful DNA sequencing of the two human-ancestor species could help scientists describe the evolutionary events that led to modern humans.

afarensis doesn’t think this will happen soon, neanderthals will be first and if the techniques are successful then it will be extended to Homo floresiensis (which is actually within the correct time range).

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Cave Bears an Neanderthals

As mentioned several posts ago, scientists have succeeded in sequencing the nuclear DNA of cave bears. It is estimated that the DNA in question was approximately 40,000 years old. The possibility was raised the the technique could be used to sequence Neanderthal nuclear DNA. Previous attempts to sequence Neanderthal DNA focussed on mitochondrial DNA (a circular DNA found in the mitochondria of cells) with varying degrees of success. Interestingly enough, Neanderthals and Cave bears go together – more or less.

Drachenloch Cave Posted by Hello

At one time it was thought that Neanderthals had a cult centered around cave bears. Cave bear skeletons are found frequently in Europe. In several caves the bear skeletons were found, ostensibly, neatly arranged as if part of a shrine. The caves, such as Drachenloch above, contained largely intact bear skeletons neatly arranged around the periphery. At least one skelton was on a stone slab attributed to Neanderthal construction. Unfortunately for the theory, there are no Neanderthal artifacts, no cut markes indicative of human activity on the bones, no signs of Neanderthal occupation at all. Worse yet, the cave bear bones in the center areas of the cave were scrambled and broken while those at the periphery or in difficult to access areas were not. The cave bears occupied the cave for quite a while so skeletons in the center areas got trampled and disarticulated. Skeletons in the periphery were less likely to be disturbed. Further research indicates that carnivores – especially large ones – are actually quite rare at Neanderthal sites.