Skip to main content
  1. News
  2. Science & Space

DNA sequenced from a 400,000-year-old human ancestor

See also

Matthias Meyer and his team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and a Spanish team of paleontologists led by Juan-Luis Arsuaga reported the first sequencing of the oldest human ancestor DNA that has ever been performed in the Dec. 4, 2013, issue of the journal Nature.

The researchers sequenced the mitochondrial DNA from bone samples taken from Homo heidelbergensis found in the Sima de los Huesos cave in Northern Spain. The 28 hominin skeletons found in the cave over the last 20 years date to around 400,000 years ago. The researchers developed new techniques for retrieving and sequencing highly degraded ancient DNA. The scientists compared the mitochondrial DNA with the DNA of Neanderthals, Denisovans, modern humans, and apes.

The DNA analysis indicates that the Sima de los Huesos people were more closely related to Denisovans than to Neanderthals despite the fact that the proximity of known Neanderthal sites is much closer to the Sima de los Huesos cave than any Denisovan site that has been unearthed to date. Denisovan people and culture became extinct about 700,000 years ago. The physical appearance of the people from the Sima de los Huesos cave was found to be more similar to Neanderthals.

The unexpected result indicates that early human ancestors probably migrated over a larger range of territory than previously known and small groups of early human ancestors must have had a higher rate of interaction and breeding with other groups than previously thought. The possibility of multiple original sites of early human ancestor’s development in Africa and Europe at the same time is also a potential resulting from the DNA study.



  • Mt. Everest avalanche
    Disaster strikes Mt. Everest as at least 12 people were killed in an avalanche
    Watch Video
  • Most Earthlike planet discovered
    The Kepler telescope has discovered the most Earthlike, possibly habitable planet yet
    Space News
  • Easter crosses create debate
    Easter crosses spark a debate of separation of church and state in Ohio
  • Chelsea Clinton is preggers
    Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child
  • Stanley Cup playoffs
    The battle for Lord Stanley's Cup is on, don't miss a minute of playoff action
  • Ukraine discussed amongst U.S., E.U., Russia
    The U.S., E.U. and Russia agree on ways to diffuse the tension in Ukraine
    Watch Video

Related Videos:

  • Purchase Your Pair of Google Glass Today
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518193403" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url=""></div>
  • Camp Invention
    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//;autoplay=1"></iframe>
  • Stanford scientists Matthew Kanan and Christina Li have created an oxide-derived copper catalyst that converts carbon monoxide to ethanol.
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518178005" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url=""></div>

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about and apply today!