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Genomic structure in Europeans dating back at least 36,200 years.
Science
PUBLISHED: 11-08-2014
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The origin of contemporary Europeans remains contentious. We obtain a genome sequence from Kostenki 14 in European Russia dating to 38,700 to 36,200 years ago, one of the oldest fossils of Anatomically Modern Humans from Europe. We find that K14 shares a close ancestry with the 24,000-year-old Mal'ta boy from central Siberia, European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, some contemporary western Siberians, and many Europeans, but not eastern Asians. Additionally, the Kostenki 14 genome shows evidence of shared ancestry with a population basal to all Eurasians that also relates to later European Neolithic farmers. We find that Kostenki 14 contains more Neandertal DNA that is contained in longer tracts than present Europeans. Our findings reveal the timing of divergence of western Eurasians and East Asians to be more than 36,200 years ago and that European genomic structure today dates back to the Upper Paleolithic and derives from a meta-population that at times stretched from Europe to central Asia.
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The genetic prehistory of the New World Arctic.
Science
PUBLISHED: 08-30-2014
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The New World Arctic, the last region of the Americas to be populated by humans, has a relatively well-researched archaeology, but an understanding of its genetic history is lacking. We present genome-wide sequence data from ancient and present-day humans from Greenland, Arctic Canada, Alaska, Aleutian Islands, and Siberia. We show that Paleo-Eskimos (~3000 BCE to 1300 CE) represent a migration pulse into the Americas independent of both Native American and Inuit expansions. Furthermore, the genetic continuity characterizing the Paleo-Eskimo period was interrupted by the arrival of a new population, representing the ancestors of present-day Inuit, with evidence of past gene flow between these lineages. Despite periodic abandonment of major Arctic regions, a single Paleo-Eskimo metapopulation likely survived in near-isolation for more than 4000 years, only to vanish around 700 years ago.
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Rodents of the Caribbean: origin and diversification of hutias unravelled by next-generation museomics.
Biol. Lett.
PUBLISHED: 08-14-2014
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The Capromyidae (hutias) are endemic rodents of the Caribbean and represent a model of dispersal for non-flying mammals in the Greater Antilles. This family has experienced severe extinctions during the Holocene and its phylogenetic affinities with respect to other caviomorph relatives are still debated as morphological and molecular data disagree. We used target enrichment and next-generation sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear genes to infer the phylogenetic relationships of hutias, estimate their divergence ages, and understand their mode of dispersal in the Greater Antilles.We found that Capromyidae are nested within Echimyidae (spiny rats) and should be considered a subfamily thereof. We estimated that the split between hutias and Atlantic Forest spiny rats occurred 16.5 (14.8–18.2) million years ago (Ma), which is more recent than the GAARlandia land bridge hypothesis (34–35 Ma). This would suggest that during the Early Miocene, an echimyid-like ancestor colonized the Greater Antilles from an eastern South American source population via rafting. The basal divergence of the Hispaniolan Plagiodontia provides further support for a vicariant separation between Hispaniolan and western islands (Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica) hutias. Recent divergences among these western hutias suggest Plio-Pleistocene dispersal waves associated with glacial cycles.
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Characterization of ancient and modern genomes by SNP detection and phylogenomic and metagenomic analysis using PALEOMIX.
Nat Protoc
PUBLISHED: 04-10-2014
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Next-generation sequencing technologies have revolutionized the field of paleogenomics, allowing the reconstruction of complete ancient genomes and their comparison with modern references. However, this requires the processing of vast amounts of data and involves a large number of steps that use a variety of computational tools. Here we present PALEOMIX (http://geogenetics.ku.dk/publications/paleomix), a flexible and user-friendly pipeline applicable to both modern and ancient genomes, which largely automates the in silico analyses behind whole-genome resequencing. Starting with next-generation sequencing reads, PALEOMIX carries out adapter removal, mapping against reference genomes, PCR duplicate removal, characterization of and compensation for postmortem damage, SNP calling and maximum-likelihood phylogenomic inference, and it profiles the metagenomic contents of the samples. As such, PALEOMIX allows for a series of potential applications in paleogenomics, comparative genomics and metagenomics. Applying the PALEOMIX pipeline to the three ancient and seven modern Phytophthora infestans genomes as described here takes 5 d using a 16-core server.
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A 400,000-year-old mitochondrial genome questions phylogenetic relationships amongst archaic hominins: using the latest advances in ancient genomics, the mitochondrial genome sequence of a 400,000-year-old hominin has been deciphered.
Bioessays
PUBLISHED: 04-06-2014
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By combining state-of-the-art approaches in ancient genomics, Meyer and co-workers have reconstructed the mitochondrial sequence of an archaic hominin that lived at Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain about 400,000 years ago. This achievement follows recent advances in molecular anthropology that delivered the genome sequence of younger archaic hominins, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. Molecular phylogenetic reconstructions placed the Atapuercan as a sister group to Denisovans, although its morphology suggested closer affinities with Neanderthals. In addition to possibly challenging our interpretation of the fossil record, this study confirms that genomic information can be recovered from extremely damaged DNA molecules, even in the presence of significant levels of human contamination. Together with the recent characterization of a 700,000-year-old horse genome, this study opens the Middle Pleistocene to genomics, thereby extending the scope of ancient DNA to the last million years.
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Population genomics reveal recent speciation and rapid evolutionary adaptation in polar bears.
Cell
PUBLISHED: 03-04-2014
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Polar bears are uniquely adapted to life in the High Arctic and have undergone drastic physiological changes in response to Arctic climates and a hyper-lipid diet of primarily marine mammal prey. We analyzed 89 complete genomes of polar bear and brown bear using population genomic modeling and show that the species diverged only 479-343 thousand years BP. We find that genes on the polar bear lineage have been under stronger positive selection than in brown bears; nine of the top 16 genes under strong positive selection are associated with cardiomyopathy and vascular disease, implying important reorganization of the cardiovascular system. One of the genes showing the strongest evidence of selection, APOB, encodes the primary lipoprotein component of low-density lipoprotein (LDL); functional mutations in APOB may explain how polar bears are able to cope with life-long elevated LDL levels that are associated with high risk of heart disease in humans.
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Fifty thousand years of Arctic vegetation and megafaunal diet.
Nature
PUBLISHED: 02-07-2014
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Although it is generally agreed that the Arctic flora is among the youngest and least diverse on Earth, the processes that shaped it are poorly understood. Here we present 50 thousand years (kyr) of Arctic vegetation history, derived from the first large-scale ancient DNA metabarcoding study of circumpolar plant diversity. For this interval we also explore nematode diversity as a proxy for modelling vegetation cover and soil quality, and diets of herbivorous megafaunal mammals, many of which became extinct around 10 kyr bp (before present). For much of the period investigated, Arctic vegetation consisted of dry steppe-tundra dominated by forbs (non-graminoid herbaceous vascular plants). During the Last Glacial Maximum (25-15 kyr bp), diversity declined markedly, although forbs remained dominant. Much changed after 10 kyr bp, with the appearance of moist tundra dominated by woody plants and graminoids. Our analyses indicate that both graminoids and forbs would have featured in megafaunal diets. As such, our findings question the predominance of a Late Quaternary graminoid-dominated Arctic mammoth steppe.
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The genome of a Late Pleistocene human from a Clovis burial site in western Montana.
Nature
PUBLISHED: 01-14-2014
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Clovis, with its distinctive biface, blade and osseous technologies, is the oldest widespread archaeological complex defined in North America, dating from 11,100 to 10,700 (14)C years before present (bp) (13,000 to 12,600 calendar years?bp). Nearly 50?years of archaeological research point to the Clovis complex as having developed south of the North American ice sheets from an ancestral technology. However, both the origins and the genetic legacy of the people who manufactured Clovis tools remain under debate. It is generally believed that these people ultimately derived from Asia and were directly related to contemporary Native Americans. An alternative, Solutrean, hypothesis posits that the Clovis predecessors emigrated from southwestern Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum. Here we report the genome sequence of a male infant (Anzick-1) recovered from the Anzick burial site in western Montana. The human bones date to 10,705?±?35 (14)C years?bp (approximately 12,707-12,556 calendar years?bp) and were directly associated with Clovis tools. We sequenced the genome to an average depth of 14.4×?and show that the gene flow from the Siberian Upper Palaeolithic Mal'ta population into Native American ancestors is also shared by the Anzick-1 individual and thus happened before 12,600 years?bp. We also show that the Anzick-1 individual is more closely related to all indigenous American populations than to any other group. Our data are compatible with the hypothesis that Anzick-1 belonged to a population directly ancestral to many contemporary Native Americans. Finally, we find evidence of a deep divergence in Native American populations that predates the Anzick-1 individual.
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Genome-wide nucleosome map and cytosine methylation levels of an ancient human genome.
Genome Res.
PUBLISHED: 12-03-2013
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Epigenetic information is available from contemporary organisms, but is difficult to track back in evolutionary time. Here, we show that genome-wide epigenetic information can be gathered directly from next generation sequence reads of DNA isolated from ancient remains. Using the genome sequence data generated from hair shafts of a four thousand year old Palaeo-Eskimo belonging to the Saqqaq culture, we generate the first ancient nucleosome map coupled with a genome-wide survey of cytosine methylation levels. The validity of both nucleosome map and methylation levels were confirmed by the recovery of the expected signals at promoter regions, exon/intron boundaries, and CTCF sites. The top-scoring nucleosome calls revealed distinct DNA positioning biases attesting to nucleotide-level accuracy. The ancient methylation levels exhibited high conservation over time, clustering closely with modern hair tissues. Using ancient methylation information we estimated the age at death of the Saqqaq individual and illustrate how epigenetic information can be used to infer ancient gene expression. Similar epigenetic signatures were found in other fossil material, such as 110-130 kyr-old bones, supporting the contention that ancient epigenomic information can be reconstructed from a deep past. Our findings lay the foundation for extracting epigenomic information from ancient samples, allowing shifts in epialleles to be tracked through evolutionary time as well as providing an original window into modern epigenomics.
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Bacterial natural transformation by highly fragmented and damaged DNA.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 11-18-2013
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DNA molecules are continuously released through decomposition of organic matter and are ubiquitous in most environments. Such DNA becomes fragmented and damaged (often <100 bp) and may persist in the environment for more than half a million years. Fragmented DNA is recognized as nutrient source for microbes, but not as potential substrate for bacterial evolution. Here, we show that fragmented DNA molecules (?20 bp) that additionally may contain abasic sites, cross-links, or miscoding lesions are acquired by the environmental bacterium Acinetobacter baylyi through natural transformation. With uptake of DNA from a 43,000-y-old woolly mammoth bone, we further demonstrate that such natural transformation events include ancient DNA molecules. We find that the DNA recombination is RecA recombinase independent and is directly linked to DNA replication. We show that the adjacent nucleotide variations generated by uptake of short DNA fragments escape mismatch repair. Moreover, double-nucleotide polymorphisms appear more common among genomes of transformable than nontransformable bacteria. Our findings reveal that short and damaged, including truly ancient, DNA molecules, which are present in large quantities in the environment, can be acquired by bacteria through natural transformation. Our findings open for the possibility that natural genetic exchange can occur with DNA up to several hundreds of thousands years old.
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Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans.
Nature
PUBLISHED: 07-14-2013
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The origins of the First Americans remain contentious. Although Native Americans seem to be genetically most closely related to east Asians, there is no consensus with regard to which specific Old World populations they are closest to. Here we sequence the draft genome of an approximately 24,000-year-old individual (MA-1), from Malta in south-central Siberia, to an average depth of 1×. To our knowledge this is the oldest anatomically modern human genome reported to date. The MA-1 mitochondrial genome belongs to haplogroup U, which has also been found at high frequency among Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic European hunter-gatherers, and the Y chromosome of MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and near the root of most Native American lineages. Similarly, we find autosomal evidence that MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and genetically closely related to modern-day Native Americans, with no close affinity to east Asians. This suggests that populations related to contemporary western Eurasians had a more north-easterly distribution 24,000 years ago than commonly thought. Furthermore, we estimate that 14 to 38% of Native American ancestry may originate through gene flow from this ancient population. This is likely to have occurred after the divergence of Native American ancestors from east Asian ancestors, but before the diversification of Native American populations in the New World. Gene flow from the MA-1 lineage into Native American ancestors could explain why several crania from the First Americans have been reported as bearing morphological characteristics that do not resemble those of east Asians. Sequencing of another south-central Siberian, Afontova Gora-2 dating to approximately 17,000 years ago, revealed similar autosomal genetic signatures as MA-1, suggesting that the region was continuously occupied by humans throughout the Last Glacial Maximum. Our findings reveal that western Eurasian genetic signatures in modern-day Native Americans derive not only from post-Columbian admixture, as commonly thought, but also from a mixed ancestry of the First Americans.
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Recalibrating Equus evolution using the genome sequence of an early Middle Pleistocene horse.
Nature
PUBLISHED: 05-30-2013
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The rich fossil record of equids has made them a model for evolutionary processes. Here we present a 1.12-times coverage draft genome from a horse bone recovered from permafrost dated to approximately 560-780 thousand years before present (kyr BP). Our data represent the oldest full genome sequence determined so far by almost an order of magnitude. For comparison, we sequenced the genome of a Late Pleistocene horse (43?kyr BP), and modern genomes of five domestic horse breeds (Equus ferus caballus), a Przewalskis horse (E. f. przewalskii) and a donkey (E. asinus). Our analyses suggest that the Equus lineage giving rise to all contemporary horses, zebras and donkeys originated 4.0-4.5?million years before present (Myr BP), twice the conventionally accepted time to the most recent common ancestor of the genus Equus. We also find that horse population size fluctuated multiple times over the past 2?Myr, particularly during periods of severe climatic changes. We estimate that the Przewalskis and domestic horse populations diverged 38-72?kyr BP, and find no evidence of recent admixture between the domestic horse breeds and the Przewalskis horse investigated. This supports the contention that Przewalskis horses represent the last surviving wild horse population. We find similar levels of genetic variation among Przewalskis and domestic populations, indicating that the former are genetically viable and worthy of conservation efforts. We also find evidence for continuous selection on the immune system and olfaction throughout horse evolution. Finally, we identify 29 genomic regions among horse breeds that deviate from neutrality and show low levels of genetic variation compared to the Przewalskis horse. Such regions could correspond to loci selected early during domestication.
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Morphological and genetic evidence for early Holocene cattle management in northeastern China.
Nat Commun
PUBLISHED: 05-18-2013
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The domestication of cattle is generally accepted to have taken place in two independent centres: around 10,500 years ago in the Near East, giving rise to modern taurine cattle, and two millennia later in southern Asia, giving rise to zebu cattle. Here we provide firmly dated morphological and genetic evidence for early Holocene management of taurine cattle in northeastern China. We describe conjoining mandibles from this region that show evidence of oral stereotypy, dated to the early Holocene by two independent ¹?C dates. Using Illumina high-throughput sequencing coupled with DNA hybridization capture, we characterize 15,406 bp of the mitogenome with on average 16.7-fold coverage. Phylogenetic analyses reveal a hitherto unknown mitochondrial haplogroup that falls outside the known taurine diversity. Our data suggest that the first attempts to manage cattle in northern China predate the introduction of domestic cattle that gave rise to the current stock by several thousand years.
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Reconstructing genome evolution in historic samples of the Irish potato famine pathogen.
Nat Commun
PUBLISHED: 04-26-2013
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Responsible for the Irish potato famine of 1845-49, the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans caused persistent, devastating outbreaks of potato late blight across Europe in the 19th century. Despite continued interest in the history and spread of the pathogen, the genome of the famine-era strain remains entirely unknown. Here we characterize temporal genomic changes in introduced P. infestans. We shotgun sequence five 19th-century European strains from archival herbarium samples--including the oldest known European specimen, collected in 1845 from the first reported source of introduction. We then compare their genomes to those of extant isolates. We report multiple distinct genotypes in historical Europe and a suite of infection-related genes different from modern strains. At virulence-related loci, several now-ubiquitous genotypes were absent from the historical gene pool. At least one of these genotypes encodes a virulent phenotype in modern strains, which helps explain the 20th centurys episodic replacements of European P. infestans lineages.
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mapDamage2.0: fast approximate Bayesian estimates of ancient DNA damage parameters.
Bioinformatics
PUBLISHED: 04-23-2013
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Ancient DNA (aDNA) molecules in fossilized bones and teeth, coprolites, sediments, mummified specimens and museum collections represent fantastic sources of information for evolutionary biologists, revealing the agents of past epidemics and the dynamics of past populations. However, the analysis of aDNA generally faces two major issues. Firstly, sequences consist of a mixture of endogenous and various exogenous backgrounds, mostly microbial. Secondly, high nucleotide misincorporation rates can be observed as a result of severe post-mortem DNA damage. Such misincorporation patterns are instrumental to authenticate ancient sequences versus modern contaminants. We recently developed the user-friendly mapDamage package that identifies such patterns from next-generation sequencing (NGS) sequence datasets. The absence of formal statistical modeling of the DNA damage process, however, precluded rigorous quantitative comparisons across samples.
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Mitochondrial phylogenomics of modern and ancient equids.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-07-2013
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The genus Equus is richly represented in the fossil record, yet our understanding of taxonomic relationships within this genus remains limited. To estimate the phylogenetic relationships among modern horses, zebras, asses and donkeys, we generated the first data set including complete mitochondrial sequences from all seven extant lineages within the genus Equus. Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood phylogenetic inference confirms that zebras are monophyletic within the genus, and the Plains and Grevys zebras form a well-supported monophyletic group. Using ancient DNA techniques, we further characterize the complete mitochondrial genomes of three extinct equid lineages (the New World stilt-legged horses, NWSLH; the subgenus Sussemionus; and the Quagga, Equus quagga quagga). Comparisons with extant taxa confirm the NWSLH as being part of the caballines, and the Quagga and Plains zebras as being conspecific. However, the evolutionary relationships among the non-caballine lineages, including the now-extinct subgenus Sussemionus, remain unresolved, most likely due to extremely rapid radiation within this group. The closest living outgroups (rhinos and tapirs) were found to be too phylogenetically distant to calibrate reliable molecular clocks. Additional mitochondrial genome sequence data, including radiocarbon dated ancient equids, will be required before revisiting the exact timing of the lineage radiation leading up to modern equids, which for now were found to have possibly shared a common ancestor as far as up to 4 Million years ago (Mya).
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Ligation bias in illumina next-generation DNA libraries: implications for sequencing ancient genomes.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2013
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Ancient DNA extracts consist of a mixture of endogenous molecules and contaminant DNA templates, often originating from environmental microbes. These two populations of templates exhibit different chemical characteristics, with the former showing depurination and cytosine deamination by-products, resulting from post-mortem DNA damage. Such chemical modifications can interfere with the molecular tools used for building second-generation DNA libraries, and limit our ability to fully characterize the true complexity of ancient DNA extracts. In this study, we first use fresh DNA extracts to demonstrate that library preparation based on adapter ligation at AT-overhangs are biased against DNA templates starting with thymine residues, contrarily to blunt-end adapter ligation. We observe the same bias on fresh DNA extracts sheared on Bioruptor, Covaris and nebulizers. This contradicts previous reports suggesting that this bias could originate from the methods used for shearing DNA. This also suggests that AT-overhang adapter ligation efficiency is affected in a sequence-dependent manner and results in an uneven representation of different genomic contexts. We then show how this bias could affect the base composition of ancient DNA libraries prepared following AT-overhang ligation, mainly by limiting the ability to ligate DNA templates starting with thymines and therefore deaminated cytosines. This results in particular nucleotide misincorporation damage patterns, deviating from the signature generally expected for authenticating ancient sequence data. Consequently, we show that models adequate for estimating post-mortem DNA damage levels must be robust to the molecular tools used for building ancient DNA libraries.
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Proteomic analysis of a pleistocene mammoth femur reveals more than one hundred ancient bone proteins.
J. Proteome Res.
PUBLISHED: 12-14-2011
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We used high-sensitivity, high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry to shotgun sequence ancient protein remains extracted from a 43?000 year old woolly mammoth ( Mammuthus primigenius ) bone preserved in the Siberian permafrost. For the first time, 126 unique protein accessions, mostly low-abundance extracellular matrix and plasma proteins, were confidently identified by solid molecular evidence. Among the best characterized was the carrier protein serum albumin, presenting two single amino acid substitutions compared to extant African ( Loxodonta africana ) and Indian ( Elephas maximus ) elephants. Strong evidence was observed of amino acid modifications due to post-mortem hydrolytic and oxidative damage. A consistent subset of this permafrost bone proteome was also identified in more recent Columbian mammoth ( Mammuthus columbi ) samples from temperate latitudes, extending the potential of the approach described beyond subpolar environments. Mass spectrometry-based ancient protein sequencing offers new perspectives for future molecular phylogenetic inference and physiological studies on samples not amenable to ancient DNA investigation. This approach therefore represents a further step into the ongoing integration of different high-throughput technologies for identification of ancient biomolecules, unleashing the field of paleoproteomics.
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Monitoring endangered freshwater biodiversity using environmental DNA.
Mol. Ecol.
PUBLISHED: 12-13-2011
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Freshwater ecosystems are among the most endangered habitats on Earth, with thousands of animal species known to be threatened or already extinct. Reliable monitoring of threatened organisms is crucial for data-driven conservation actions but remains a challenge owing to nonstandardized methods that depend on practical and taxonomic expertise, which is rapidly declining. Here, we show that a diversity of rare and threatened freshwater animals--representing amphibians, fish, mammals, insects and crustaceans--can be detected and quantified based on DNA obtained directly from small water samples of lakes, ponds and streams. We successfully validate our findings in a controlled mesocosm experiment and show that DNA becomes undetectable within 2?weeks after removal of animals, indicating that DNA traces are near contemporary with presence of the species. We further demonstrate that entire faunas of amphibians and fish can be detected by high-throughput sequencing of DNA extracted from pond water. Our findings underpin the ubiquitous nature of DNA traces in the environment and establish environmental DNA as a tool for monitoring rare and threatened species across a wide range of taxonomic groups.
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Islands in the ice: detecting past vegetation on Greenlandic nunataks using historical records and sedimentary ancient DNA meta-barcoding.
Mol. Ecol.
PUBLISHED: 09-22-2011
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Nunataks are isolated bedrocks protruding through ice sheets. They vary in age, but represent island environments in oceans of ice through which organism dispersals and replacements can be studied over time. The J.A.D. Jensens Nunataks at the southern Greenland ice sheet are the most isolated nunataks on the northern hemisphere - some 30 km from the nearest biological source. They constitute around 2 km(2) of ice-free land that was established in the early Holocene. We have investigated the changes in plant composition at these nunataks using both the results of surveys of the flora over the last 130 years and through reconstruction of the vegetation from the end of the Holocene Thermal Maximum (5528 ± 75 cal year BP) using meta-barcoding of plant DNA recovered from the nunatak sediments (sedaDNA). Our results show that several of the plant species detected with sedaDNA are described from earlier vegetation surveys on the nunataks (in 1878, 1967 and 2009). In 1967, a much higher biodiversity was detected than from any other of the studied periods. While this may be related to differences in sampling efforts for the oldest period, it is not the case when comparing the 1967 and 2009 levels where the botanical survey was exhaustive. As no animals and humans are found on the nunataks, this change in diversity over a period of just 42 years must relate to environmental changes probably being climate-driven. This suggests that even the flora of fairly small and isolated ice-free areas reacts quickly to a changing climate.
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An Aboriginal Australian genome reveals separate human dispersals into Asia.
Science
PUBLISHED: 09-22-2011
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We present an Aboriginal Australian genomic sequence obtained from a 100-year-old lock of hair donated by an Aboriginal man from southern Western Australia in the early 20th century. We detect no evidence of European admixture and estimate contamination levels to be below 0.5%. We show that Aboriginal Australians are descendants of an early human dispersal into eastern Asia, possibly 62,000 to 75,000 years ago. This dispersal is separate from the one that gave rise to modern Asians 25,000 to 38,000 years ago. We also find evidence of gene flow between populations of the two dispersal waves prior to the divergence of Native Americans from modern Asian ancestors. Our findings support the hypothesis that present-day Aboriginal Australians descend from the earliest humans to occupy Australia, likely representing one of the oldest continuous populations outside Africa.
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Meta-barcoding of dirt DNA from soil reflects vertebrate biodiversity.
Mol. Ecol.
PUBLISHED: 09-14-2011
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DNA molecules originating from animals and plants can be retrieved directly from sediments and have been used for reconstructing both contemporary and past ecosystems. However, the extent to which such dirt DNA reflects taxonomic richness and structural diversity remains contentious. Here, we couple second generation high-throughput sequencing with 16S mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) meta-barcoding, to explore the accuracy and sensitivity of dirt DNA as an indicator of vertebrate diversity, from soil sampled at safari parks, zoological gardens and farms with known species compositions. PCR amplification was successful in the full pH range of the investigated soils (6.2 ± 0.2 to 8.3 ± 0.2), but inhibition was detected in extracts from soil of high organic content. DNA movement (leaching) through strata was evident in some sporadic cases and is influenced by soil texture and structure. We find that DNA from the soil surface reflects overall taxonomic richness and relative biomass of individual species. However, one species that was recently introduced was not detected. Furthermore, animal behaviour was shown to influence DNA deposition rates. The approach potentially provides a quick methodological alternative to classical ecological surveys of biodiversity, and most reliable results are obtained with spatial sample replicates, while relative amounts of soil processed per site is of less importance.
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True single-molecule DNA sequencing of a pleistocene horse bone.
Genome Res.
PUBLISHED: 07-29-2011
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Second-generation sequencing platforms have revolutionized the field of ancient DNA, opening access to complete genomes of past individuals and extinct species. However, these platforms are dependent on library construction and amplification steps that may result in sequences that do not reflect the original DNA template composition. This is particularly true for ancient DNA, where templates have undergone extensive damage post-mortem. Here, we report the results of the first "true single molecule sequencing" of ancient DNA. We generated 115.9 Mb and 76.9 Mb of DNA sequences from a permafrost-preserved Pleistocene horse bone using the Helicos HeliScope and Illumina GAIIx platforms, respectively. We find that the percentage of endogenous DNA sequences derived from the horse is higher among the Helicos data than Illumina data. This result indicates that the molecular biology tools used to generate sequencing libraries of ancient DNA molecules, as required for second-generation sequencing, introduce biases into the data that reduce the efficiency of the sequencing process and limit our ability to fully explore the molecular complexity of ancient DNA extracts. We demonstrate that simple modifications to the standard Helicos DNA template preparation protocol further increase the proportion of horse DNA for this sample by threefold. Comparison of Helicos-specific biases and sequence errors in modern DNA with those in ancient DNA also reveals extensive cytosine deamination damage at the 3 ends of ancient templates, indicating the presence of 3-sequence overhangs. Our results suggest that paleogenomes could be sequenced in an unprecedented manner by combining current second- and third-generation sequencing approaches.
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mapDamage: testing for damage patterns in ancient DNA sequences.
Bioinformatics
PUBLISHED: 06-09-2011
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Ancient DNA extracts consist of a mixture of contaminant DNA molecules, most often originating from environmental microbes, and endogenous fragments exhibiting substantial levels of DNA damage. The latter introduce specific nucleotide misincorporations and DNA fragmentation signatures in sequencing reads that could be advantageously used to argue for sequence validity. mapDamage is a Perl script that computes nucleotide misincorporation and fragmentation patterns using next-generation sequencing reads mapped against a reference genome. The Perl script outputs are further automatically processed in embedded R script in order to detect typical patterns of genuine ancient DNA sequences.
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Out of the Pacific and back again: insights into the matrilineal history of Pacific killer whale ecotypes.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 06-03-2011
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Killer whales (Orcinus orca) are the most widely distributed marine mammals and have radiated to occupy a range of ecological niches. Disparate sympatric types are found in the North Atlantic, Antarctic and North Pacific oceans, however, little is known about the underlying mechanisms driving divergence. Previous phylogeographic analysis using complete mitogenomes yielded a bifurcating tree of clades corresponding to described ecotypes. However, there was low support at two nodes at which two Pacific and two Atlantic clades diverged. Here we apply further phylogenetic and coalescent analyses to partitioned mitochondrial genome sequences to better resolve the pattern of past radiations in this species. Our phylogenetic reconstructions indicate that in the North Pacific, sympatry between the maternal lineages that make up each ecotype arises from secondary contact. Both the phylogenetic reconstructions and a clinal decrease in diversity suggest a North Pacific to North Atlantic founding event, and the later return of killer whales to the North Pacific. Therefore, ecological divergence could have occurred during the allopatric phase through drift or selection and/or may have either commenced or have been consolidated upon secondary contact due to resource competition. The estimated timing of bidirectional migration between the North Pacific and North Atlantic coincided with the previous inter-glacial when the leakage of fauna from the Indo-Pacific into the Atlantic via the Agulhas current was particularly vigorous.
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Species-specific responses of Late Quaternary megafauna to climate and humans.
Nature
PUBLISHED: 04-22-2011
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Despite decades of research, the roles of climate and humans in driving the dramatic extinctions of large-bodied mammals during the Late Quaternary period remain contentious. Here we use ancient DNA, species distribution models and the human fossil record to elucidate how climate and humans shaped the demographic history of woolly rhinoceros, woolly mammoth, wild horse, reindeer, bison and musk ox. We show that climate has been a major driver of population change over the past 50,000 years. However, each species responds differently to the effects of climatic shifts, habitat redistribution and human encroachment. Although climate change alone can explain the extinction of some species, such as Eurasian musk ox and woolly rhinoceros, a combination of climatic and anthropogenic effects appears to be responsible for the extinction of others, including Eurasian steppe bison and wild horse. We find no genetic signature or any distinctive range dynamics distinguishing extinct from surviving species, emphasizing the challenges associated with predicting future responses of extant mammals to climate and human-mediated habitat change.
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Mitogenomic phylogenetic analyses of the Delphinidae with an emphasis on the Globicephalinae.
BMC Evol. Biol.
PUBLISHED: 03-10-2011
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Previous DNA-based phylogenetic studies of the Delphinidae family suggest it has undergone rapid diversification, as characterised by unresolved and poorly supported taxonomic relationships (polytomies) for some of the species within this group. Using an increased amount of sequence data we test between alternative hypotheses of soft polytomies caused by rapid speciation, slow evolutionary rate and/or insufficient sequence data, and hard polytomies caused by simultaneous speciation within this family. Combining the mitogenome sequences of five new and 12 previously published species within the Delphinidae, we used Bayesian and maximum-likelihood methods to estimate the phylogeny from partitioned and unpartitioned mitogenome sequences. Further ad hoc tests were then conducted to estimate the support for alternative topologies.
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Ancient DNA sequences point to a large loss of mitochondrial genetic diversity in the saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) since the Pleistocene.
Mol. Ecol.
PUBLISHED: 09-27-2010
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Prior to the Holocene, the range of the saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) spanned from France to the Northwest Territories of Canada. Although its distribution subsequently contracted to the steppes of Central Asia, historical records indicate that it remained extremely abundant until the end of the Soviet Union, after which its populations were reduced by over 95%. We have analysed the mitochondrial control region sequence variation of 27 ancient and 38 modern specimens, to assay how the species genetic diversity has changed since the Pleistocene. Phylogenetic analyses reveal the existence of two well-supported, and clearly distinct, clades of saiga. The first, spanning a time range from >49,500 (14) C ybp to the present, comprises all the modern specimens and ancient samples from the Northern Urals, Middle Urals and Northeast Yakutia. The second clade is exclusive to the Northern Urals and includes samples dating from between 40,400 to 10,250 (14) C ybp. Current genetic diversity is much lower than that present during the Pleistocene, an observation that data modelling using serial coalescent indicates cannot be explained by genetic drift in a population of constant size. Approximate Bayesian Computation analyses show the observed data is more compatible with a drastic population size reduction (c. 66-77%) following either a demographic bottleneck in the course of the Holocene or late Pleistocene, or a geographic fragmentation (followed by local extinction of one subpopulation) at the Holocene/Pleistocene transition.
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Ancient DNA analyses exclude humans as the driving force behind late Pleistocene musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) population dynamics.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 03-08-2010
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The causes of the late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions are poorly understood. Different lines of evidence point to climate change, the arrival of humans, or a combination of these events as the trigger. Although many species went extinct, others, such as caribou and bison, survived to the present. The musk ox has an intermediate story: relatively abundant during the Pleistocene, it is now restricted to Greenland and the Arctic Archipelago. In this study, we use ancient DNA sequences, temporally unbiased summary statistics, and Bayesian analytical techniques to infer musk ox population dynamics throughout the late Pleistocene and Holocene. Our results reveal that musk ox genetic diversity was much higher during the Pleistocene than at present, and has undergone several expansions and contractions over the past 60,000 years. Northeast Siberia was of key importance, as it was the geographic origin of all samples studied and held a large diverse population until local extinction at approximately 45,000 radiocarbon years before present ((14)C YBP). Subsequently, musk ox genetic diversity reincreased at ca. 30,000 (14)C YBP, recontracted at ca. 18,000 (14)C YBP, and finally recovered in the middle Holocene. The arrival of humans into relevant areas of the musk ox range did not affect their mitochondrial diversity, and both musk ox and humans expanded into Greenland concomitantly. Thus, their population dynamics are better explained by a nonanthropogenic cause (for example, environmental change), a hypothesis supported by historic observations on the sensitivity of the species to both climatic warming and fluctuations.
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The microcephalin ancestral allele in a Neanderthal individual.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-19-2010
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The high frequency (around 0.70 worldwide) and the relatively young age (between 14,000 and 62,000 years) of a derived group of haplotypes, haplogroup D, at the microcephalin (MCPH1) locus led to the proposal that haplogroup D originated in a human lineage that separated from modern humans >1 million years ago, evolved under strong positive selection, and passed into the human gene pool by an episode of admixture circa 37,000 years ago. The geographic distribution of haplogroup D, with marked differences between Africa and Eurasia, suggested that the archaic human form admixing with anatomically modern humans might have been Neanderthal.
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Ancient human genome sequence of an extinct Palaeo-Eskimo.
Nature
PUBLISHED: 01-18-2010
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We report here the genome sequence of an ancient human. Obtained from approximately 4,000-year-old permafrost-preserved hair, the genome represents a male individual from the first known culture to settle in Greenland. Sequenced to an average depth of 20x, we recover 79% of the diploid genome, an amount close to the practical limit of current sequencing technologies. We identify 353,151 high-confidence single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), of which 6.8% have not been reported previously. We estimate raw read contamination to be no higher than 0.8%. We use functional SNP assessment to assign possible phenotypic characteristics of the individual that belonged to a culture whose location has yielded only trace human remains. We compare the high-confidence SNPs to those of contemporary populations to find the populations most closely related to the individual. This provides evidence for a migration from Siberia into the New World some 5,500 years ago, independent of that giving rise to the modern Native Americans and Inuit.
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Revising the recent evolutionary history of equids using ancient DNA.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 12-09-2009
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The rich fossil record of the family Equidae (Mammalia: Perissodactyla) over the past 55 MY has made it an icon for the patterns and processes of macroevolution. Despite this, many aspects of equid phylogenetic relationships and taxonomy remain unresolved. Recent genetic analyses of extinct equids have revealed unexpected evolutionary patterns and a need for major revisions at the generic, subgeneric, and species levels. To investigate this issue we examine 35 ancient equid specimens from four geographic regions (South America, Europe, Southwest Asia, and South Africa), of which 22 delivered 87-688 bp of reproducible aDNA mitochondrial sequence. Phylogenetic analyses support a major revision of the recent evolutionary history of equids and reveal two new species, a South American hippidion and a descendant of a basal lineage potentially related to Middle Pleistocene equids. Sequences from specimens assigned to the giant extinct Cape zebra, Equus capensis, formed a separate clade within the modern plain zebra species, a phenotypicically plastic group that also included the extinct quagga. In addition, we revise the currently recognized extinction times for two hemione-related equid groups. However, it is apparent that the current dataset cannot solve all of the taxonomic and phylogenetic questions relevant to the evolution of Equus. In light of these findings, we propose a rapid DNA barcoding approach to evaluate the taxonomic status of the many Late Pleistocene fossil Equidae species that have been described from purely morphological analyses.
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Using classical population genetics tools with heterochroneous data: time matters!
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 04-15-2009
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New polymorphism datasets from heterochroneous data have arisen thanks to recent advances in experimental and microbial molecular evolution, and the sequencing of ancient DNA (aDNA). However, classical tools for population genetics analyses do not take into account heterochrony between subsets, despite potential bias on neutrality and population structure tests. Here, we characterize the extent of such possible biases using serial coalescent simulations.
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Investigating the potential use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for genetic monitoring of marine mammals.
PLoS ONE
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The exploitation of non-invasive samples has been widely used in genetic monitoring of terrestrial species. In aquatic ecosystems, non-invasive samples such as feces, shed hair or skin, are less accessible. However, the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) has recently been shown to be an effective tool for genetic monitoring of species presence in freshwater ecosystems. Detecting species in the marine environment using eDNA potentially offers a greater challenge due to the greater dilution, amount of mixing and salinity compared with most freshwater ecosystems. To determine the potential use of eDNA for genetic monitoring we used specific primers that amplify short mitochondrial DNA sequences to detect the presence of a marine mammal, the harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, in a controlled environment and in natural marine locations. The reliability of the genetic detections was investigated by comparing with detections of harbor porpoise echolocation clicks by static acoustic monitoring devices. While we were able to consistently genetically detect the target species under controlled conditions, the results from natural locations were less consistent and detection by eDNA was less successful than acoustic detections. However, at one site we detected long-finned pilot whale, Globicephala melas, a species rarely sighted in the Baltic. Therefore, with optimization aimed towards processing larger volumes of seawater this method has the potential to compliment current visual and acoustic methods of species detection of marine mammals.
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Genomic affinities of two 7,000-year-old Iberian hunter-gatherers.
Curr. Biol.
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The genetic background of the European Mesolithic and the extent of population replacement during the Neolithic is poorly understood, both due to the scarcity of human remains from that period and the inherent methodological difficulties of ancient DNA research. However, advances in sequencing technologies are both increasing data yields and providing supporting evidence for data authenticity, such as nucleotide misincorporation patterns. We use these methods to characterize both the mitochondrial DNA genome and generate shotgun genomic data from two exceptionally well-preserved 7,000-year-old Mesolithic individuals from La Braña-Arintero site in León (Northwestern Spain). The mitochondria of both individuals are assigned to U5b2c1, a haplotype common among the small number of other previously studied Mesolithic individuals from Northern and Central Europe. This suggests a remarkable genetic uniformity and little phylogeographic structure over a large geographic area of the pre-Neolithic populations. Using Approximate Bayesian Computation, a model of genetic continuity from Mesolithic to Neolithic populations is poorly supported. Furthermore, analyses of 1.34% and 0.53% of their nuclear genomes, containing about 50,000 and 20,000 ancestry informative SNPs, respectively, show that these two Mesolithic individuals are not related to current populations from either the Iberian Peninsula or Southern Europe.
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A comparative study of ancient sedimentary DNA, pollen and macrofossils from permafrost sediments of northern Siberia reveals long-term vegetational stability.
Mol. Ecol.
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Although ancient DNA from sediments (sedaDNA) has been used to investigate past ecosystems, the approach has never been directly compared with the traditional methods of pollen and macrofossil analysis. We conducted a comparative survey of 18 ancient permafrost samples spanning the Late Pleistocene (46-12.5 thousand years ago), from the Taymyr Peninsula in northern Siberia. The results show that pollen, macrofossils and sedaDNA are complementary rather than overlapping and, in combination, reveal more detailed information on plant palaeocommunities than can be achieved by each individual approach. SedaDNA and macrofossils share greater overlap in plant identifications than with pollen, suggesting that sedaDNA is local in origin. These two proxies also permit identification to lower taxonomic levels than pollen, enabling investigation into temporal changes in species composition and the determination of indicator species to describe environmental changes. Combining data from all three proxies reveals an area continually dominated by a mosaic vegetation of tundra-steppe, pioneer and wet-indicator plants. Such vegetational stability is unexpected, given the severe climate changes taking place in the Northern Hemisphere during this time, with changes in average annual temperatures of >22 °C. This may explain the abundance of ice-age mammals such as horse and bison in Taymyr Peninsula during the Pleistocene and why it acted as a refugium for the last mainland woolly mammoth. Our finding reveals the benefits of combining sedaDNA, pollen and macrofossil for palaeovegetational reconstruction and adds to the increasing evidence suggesting large areas of the Northern Hemisphere remained ecologically stable during the Late Pleistocene.
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Improving ancient DNA read mapping against modern reference genomes.
BMC Genomics
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Next-Generation Sequencing has revolutionized our approach to ancient DNA (aDNA) research, by providing complete genomic sequences of ancient individuals and extinct species. However, the recovery of genetic material from long-dead organisms is still complicated by a number of issues, including post-mortem DNA damage and high levels of environmental contamination. Together with error profiles specific to the type of sequencing platforms used, these specificities could limit our ability to map sequencing reads against modern reference genomes and therefore limit our ability to identify endogenous ancient reads, reducing the efficiency of shotgun sequencing aDNA.
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Improving the performance of true single molecule sequencing for ancient DNA.
BMC Genomics
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Second-generation sequencing technologies have revolutionized our ability to recover genetic information from the past, allowing the characterization of the first complete genomes from past individuals and extinct species. Recently, third generation Helicos sequencing platforms, which perform true Single-Molecule DNA Sequencing (tSMS), have shown great potential for sequencing DNA molecules from Pleistocene fossils. Here, we aim at improving even further the performance of tSMS for ancient DNA by testing two novel tSMS template preparation methods for Pleistocene bone fossils, namely oligonucleotide spiking and treatment with DNA phosphatase.
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Next-generation sequencing offers new insights into DNA degradation.
Trends Biotechnol.
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The processes underlying DNA degradation are central to various disciplines, including cancer research, forensics and archaeology. The sequencing of ancient DNA molecules on next-generation sequencing platforms provides direct measurements of cytosine deamination, depurination and fragmentation rates that previously were obtained only from extrapolations of results from in vitro kinetic experiments performed over short timescales. For example, recent next-generation sequencing of ancient DNA reveals purine bases as one of the main targets of postmortem hydrolytic damage, through base elimination and strand breakage. It also shows substantially increased rates of DNA base-loss at guanosine. In this review, we argue that the latter results from an electron resonance structure unique to guanosine rather than adenosine having an extra resonance structure over guanosine as previously suggested.
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Mitogenome sequencing reveals shallow evolutionary histories and recent divergence time between morphologically and ecologically distinct European whitefish (Coregonus spp.).
Mol. Ecol.
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The advent of second-generation sequencing has made it possible to quickly and economically generate whole mitochondrial genome (mitogenome) sequences. To date, mitogenome studies of nonmodel organisms have demonstrated increased power for resolving interspecies relationships. We explored an alternate use of such data to recover relationships and population history of closely related lineages with a shallow evolutionary history. Using a GS-FLX platform, we sequenced 106 mitogenomes from the Coregonus lavaretus (Europe) and Coregonus clupeaformis (North America) species complexes to investigate the evolutionary history of the endangered Danish North Sea houting (NSH) and other closely related Danish and Baltic European lake whitefish (ELW). Two well-supported clades were found within both ELW and NSH, probably reflecting historical introgression via Baltic migrants. Although ELW and NSH are not reciprocally monophyletic, they share no haplotypes, suggesting recent, but strong, reproductive isolation. The divergence time between NSH and the geographically closest ELW population was estimated using IMa, assuming isolation with migration and a new mutation rate estimate chosen to avoid time-dependency effects. The estimate of c.?2700?bp was remarkably similar to results obtained using microsatellite markers. Within North American C. clupeaformis, the divergence time between the two lineages (Atlantic and Acadian) was estimated as between 20,000 and 60,000?bp. Under the assumption that NSH and ELW colonized Denmark following the last glacial maximum, Bayesian Serial SimCoal analysis showed consistency with a scenario of long-term stability, resulting from a rapid initial sixfold population expansion. The findings illustrate the utility of mitogenome data for resolving recent intraspecific divergence events and provide evidence for recent reproductive isolation of the phenotypically divergent NSH.
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Statistical guidelines for detecting past population shifts using ancient DNA.
Mol. Biol. Evol.
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Populations carry a genetic signal of their demographic past, providing an opportunity for investigating the processes that shaped their evolution. Our ability to infer population histories can be enhanced by including ancient DNA data. Using serial-coalescent simulations and a range of both quantitative and temporal sampling schemes, we test the power of ancient mitochondrial sequences and nuclear single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to detect past population bottlenecks. Within our simulated framework, mitochondrial sequences have only limited power to detect subtle bottlenecks and/or fast post-bottleneck recoveries. In contrast, nuclear SNPs can detect bottlenecks followed by rapid recovery, although bottlenecks involving reduction of less than half the population are generally detected with low power unless extensive genetic information from ancient individuals is available. Our results provide useful guidelines for scaling sampling schemes and for optimizing our ability to infer past population dynamics. In addition, our results suggest that many ancient DNA studies may face power issues in detecting moderate demographic collapses and/or highly dynamic demographic shifts when based solely on mitochondrial information.
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Glacial survival of boreal trees in northern Scandinavia.
Science
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It is commonly believed that trees were absent in Scandinavia during the last glaciation and first recolonized the Scandinavian Peninsula with the retreat of its ice sheet some 9000 years ago. Here, we show the presence of a rare mitochondrial DNA haplotype of spruce that appears unique to Scandinavia and with its highest frequency to the west-an area believed to sustain ice-free refugia during most of the last ice age. We further show the survival of DNA from this haplotype in lake sediments and pollen of Trøndelag in central Norway dating back ~10,300 years and chloroplast DNA of pine and spruce in lake sediments adjacent to the ice-free Andøya refugium in northwestern Norway as early as ~22,000 and 17,700 years ago, respectively. Our findings imply that conifer trees survived in ice-free refugia of Scandinavia during the last glaciation, challenging current views on survival and spread of trees as a response to climate changes.
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Partial genetic turnover in neandertals: continuity in the East and population replacement in the West.
Mol. Biol. Evol.
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Remarkably little is known about the population-level processes leading up to the extinction of the neandertal. To examine this, we use mitochondrial DNA sequences from 13 neandertal individuals, including a novel sequence from northern Spain, to examine neandertal demographic history. Our analyses indicate that recent western European neandertals (<48 kyr) constitute a tightly defined group with low mitochondrial genetic variation in comparison with both eastern and older (>48 kyr) European neandertals. Using control region sequences, Bayesian demographic simulations provide higher support for a model of population fragmentation followed by separate demographic trajectories in subpopulations over a null model of a single stable population. The most parsimonious explanation for these results is that of a population turnover in western Europe during early Marine Isotope Stage 3, predating the arrival of anatomically modern humans in the region.
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