Genome sequence of the most ancient human

Svante Pääbo and Nicholas cirrus with the bones of an ancient Siberian. Omsk
Svante Pääbo and Nicholas cirrus with the bones of an ancient Siberian. Omsk

International journal Nature has published the results of the study of the complete genome of the oldest modern human found in Ust-Ishim region of Omsk oblast. 

Co-authors of the discovery: head of "Ancestor" project, member of the Russian Geographical Society and the Russian Geological Society Nikolay Peristov, paleontologist Alexei Bondarev, anthropologist Sergey Slepchenko, as well as representatives of Omsk regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society Igor Vyatkin, Boris Melnikov and Alex Matveev. 

The story began when artist carver from Omsk Nicholay Peristov was collecting material for his works on the bank of the Irtysh. He worked with the bones of mammoths, bisons and other animals found in shallows. In 2008, he found a strange bone, which then was lying in his vaults for about two years until it was examined by a paleontologist from Omsk, member of Omsk regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society Alesey Bondarev. Omsk scientific community was intrigued by the news of the discovery, which fundamentally changed the idea of Omsk Irtysh ​​settling time and threw light on the entire history of our species - Homo sapiens. 

It could be a Neanderthal or a modern human (Homo sapiens), or a man of anatomically modern type, or our contemporary. 

"At that time I worked as a surgeon in Omsk and in parallel studied anthropology, - says Sergey Slepchenko. - And with a high degree of certainty I identified that this is the modern human."

Then research teams of Russian and foreign scientists joined them: from Germany, USA, China  and UK: Yaroslav Kuzmin (Novosibirsk), Sergei Slepchenko (Tyumen), Dmitry Razhev, Pavel Kosintsev (Yekaterinburg), Svante Pääbo, Bence Viola, Shaomey Fu, Thomas Higham Jean-Jacques Hablin and others. 

The bone of the Ust’-Ishim Cro-Magnon was age-dated in the laboratory at Oxford, and it turned out to be very old. Using radiocarbon analysis its age was determined - 41 400 years, and the calibrated age of the bone was about 45 000 years. Thus, it is the oldest bone of a Homo sapiens found outside Africa and the Middle East, and the oldest one the age of which was determined accurately. In addition, it is the most northern discovery of a Paleolithic man in the world. 

It testifies about unexpectedly early penetration of modern humans to the north and corrects representations about the route of their settlements, emphasizing the importance of plains and river depths of Eurasia. The research results open broad prospects not only for historians and anthropologists. Modern medicine is also interested in the study of the ancient human genome. 

After the radioisotope analysis scientists also managed to determine the diet of the ancient Siberian. It turned out that in addition to meat of animals and collected plants freshwater fish was a large part of his diet. 

Then genetics isolated DNA of the Ust’-Ishim individual, not only mitochondrial but also nuclear. The bone of the Ust’-Ishim individual is the oldest bone of a Homo sapiens, from which DNA was isolated and the complete genome was sequenced. 

Geneticists have confirmed the conclusion of anthropologists that this is a male modern human. 

The scientists compared the DNA of the Ust’-Ishim individual with the DNA of Neanderthals and modern humans from different populations. 

The DNA of the Ust’-Ishim individual, like our contemporaries has about 2.5% of Neanderthal genes. "But the Neanderthal genetic material that we have is presented in short fragments altered by mutations that we gained during the human evolution - explained Sergey Slepchenko. - And Neanderthal DNA fragments of the Ust’-Ishim individual are much longer. "

Genetic analysis has enabled researchers to significantly narrow the time range during which Homo sapiens and Neanderthals interbred and exchanged genes. Previously it was thought that this was 37-86 thousand years ago, and now scientists can identify more precise numbers: 50-60 thousand years ago. 

Additionally, genetics have found out that "people from Ust-Ishim" lived before the time when modern humans spread across Eurasia, divided into western and eastern populations. 

"20-30 thousand years ago the population divided into the Cro-Magnons, who lived in Europe, and the Mongoloids, who lived in the South-West and South-East Asia - said Sergey Slepchenko. - But the Ust’-Ishim individual was the ancestor of both branches. "

In the summer of 2014 Omsk regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society in conjunction with Omsk department of Siberian Federal District Territorial fund of geological information, the Laboratory of Mesozoic and Cenozoic continental ecosystems of Department of Geology and Geography of Tomsk National Research State University and the Russian Geological Society conducted a geological and paleogeographic expedition. 

"In the course of these studies we defined the search area of the most ancient Eurasian Homo Sapiens’s paleontological sites, found stone material - Pellet quartz and siliceous mudstone," - said Chairman of Omsk regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society Igor Vyatkin. 

You can see the exposure of Omsk regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society "First Russian Russian", dedicated to the history and the results of the discovery of the Ust’-Ishim individual at the Russian Geographical Society Festival, which is taking place in the Central House of Artists until 6 November.

 You can read the article "Genome sequence of a 45,000-year-old modern human from western Siberia" here