It’s not a plant genome … It’s not a fungal genome … But this paper is so exciting. For the first time, the nuclear genome of an extinct human being — a Palaeo-Eskimo – has been reconstructed and this spectacular findings are published in the February 10th, 2010 issue of Nature.
Morten Rasmussen and Eske Willerslev, from the Centre of Excellence in GeoGenetics, The Natural History Museum at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, led the international team of scientists responsible for the sequencing of a male individual, Inuk*, who lived in Greenland 4,000 years ago and belonged to the first culture to settle in the New World Arctic, the Saqqaq. Genomic DNA was extracted from permafrost-preserved hair, found in Qeqertasussuk, an archaeological site in southwest Greenland. The sequencing was performed by using Illumina GAII and yielded a total of 3.5 billion reads, from a total of 242 lanes.
The genome-wide SNP analysis suggested that Inuk was genetically adapted to cold temperatures (according to its p53 gene sequence) and has a tendency to baldness, dry earwax, brown eyes, dark skin, the blood type A+, and shovel-shaped front teeth .
Analysis of 350,000 SNPs revealed that populations closest to the Saqqaq are the contemporary Koryaks and Chukchis inhabiting Chukotka and northern Kamchatka of the Siberian far east. 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. Inuk’s ancestors separated from their Chukchis relatives and almost immediately crossed the Bering land bridge connecting Siberia and the New World.
Rasmussenn et al. (2010) Ancient human genome sequence of an extinct Palaeo-Eskimo. Nature 463, 757-762.
* “Inuk” means “man” or “human” in Greenlandic.
Image: Nuka Godfredsen/Nature. Artist’s impression of Inuk.