Unlocking the Past: Oldest Genetic Data Found in 2-Million-Year-Old Teeth
In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers have managed to extract genetic information from teeth fossils of Paranthropus robustus, an African hominin that lived two million years ago. The protein sequences obtained from these fossils represent the oldest genetic data ever recovered from any hominin, opening up new possibilities for understanding ancient human relatives. By analyzing the enamel of the teeth using mass spectrometry, the researchers identified a protein called amelogenin-Y, which is produced by a gene on the Y chromosome. This protein allowed them to determine the sex of the individuals, with some fossils belonging to males and others likely to females.
The study also revealed an evolutionary tree, indicating that Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovans are more closely related to each other than they are to the ancient Paranthropus. While ancient proteins show potential for revolutionizing our understanding of human evolution, there is still debate among scientists about their reliability compared to traditional methods based on bone shape. Despite the challenges, ancient proteomics holds promise for shedding light on the relationships between different hominin species and filling gaps in the human family tree. However, researchers emphasize the need to balance the benefits of destructive sampling with the risks, as protecting precious fossil records is crucial for ongoing research in this field.
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