Rummaging Through Mud in the Name of Science Reveals Genome of a Human From Unknown Population

Rummaging Through Mud in the Name of Science Reveals Genome of a Human From Unknown Population

Mud from beneath the floor of a cave might say nothing for most of us, but for scientists involved in a new study, it was the “jackpot”. Despite being in that place for thousands of years, the mud revealed the genome of an ancient human.

The incredible news is brought by, and to be more precise, analysis of the amount of dirt is revealing traces of a female who has been living about 25,000 years ago.

Ancient human populations discovered in a unique way

Scientists don’t know too much about the newfound genome. But even so, the discovery marks the scientific achievement of being able to identify ancient human populations even if there are no bones left behind. Except for the ancient woman, the newfound sample also yielded DNA belonging to wolf and bison species.

“Our results,” as the scientists wrote in their paper, “provide new insights into the Late Pleistocene genetic histories of these three species and demonstrate that direct shotgun sequencing of sediment DNA, without target enrichment methods, can yield genome-wide data informative of ancestry and phylogenetic relationships.”

Credit:, PixxlTeufel
Credit:, PixxlTeufel

Another official statement writes, as quoted in the study paper:

“Genome-wide ancient sediment DNA might open new directions for the study of whole ecosystems, including interactions between different species and aspects of human practices linked to the use of animals or plants.”

Scientists still have a lot to uncover about human DNA, whether they like to admit it or not. The molecule that exists in every human cell could stretch from our planet to the Sun and back roughly 600 times. The human DNA is basically a set of instructions for how to build an individual, which obviously requires an intelligent source far beyond our own. The molecule also contains instructions for the cells to produce proteins capable of affecting many functions and processes in the human body.

The new study on the ancient woman was published in Current Biology.

Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

Share this post

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.