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Appendix D - Ancient DNA

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    Learning Objectives

    • Describe the challenges in recovering and sequencing ancient DNA.
    • Explain how the Denisovans were discovered and what we have learned about them based on their aDNA.
    • Describe the relationships between Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans based on aDNA evidence.
    • Explain how DNA can provide insights into the population structure of hominin groups of the past.

    Ancient DNA (aDNA) has provided us with new insights into our evolutionary history that cannot be garnered from the fossil record alone. For example, it has assisted with the discovery of the Denisovans, for whom little fossil evidence is available. It has helped us better understand, and make inferences about, the evolution of and relationships among Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans. It has also helped to answer some very important questions about what happened when modern humans migrated out of Africa and encountered these European/Asian hominins, as we will discuss in this appendix.

    Thumbnail: The different types of DNA you may find after DNA extraction is performed on bone or other samples. In the sample you can see microbial DNA, modern human contamination DNA (both exogenous DNA), and endogenous hominin aDNA. Credit: DNA extraction (Figure 11.12) original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Robyn Humphreys is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

    This appendix is a revision of the “Chapter 11 Special Topics: Ancient DNA” by Robyn Humphreys. In Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology, first edition, edited by Beth Shook, Katie Nelson, Kelsie Aguilera, and Lara Braff, which is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

    This page titled Appendix D - Ancient DNA is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robyn Humphreys (Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.