Ancient DNA Provides A Unique Window Into Neanderthal Family Ties.

Ancient DNA Provides A Unique Window Into Neanderthal Family Ties.

Researchers extracted DNA from tiny bone fragments discovered in two Russian caves and used the genetic information to map out relationships between 13 different Neanderthals to gain insight into their way of life in a study published on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, in the journal Nature. According to the findings, Neanderthals lived in small, closely-knit groups, and females may have moved there to live with their partners.

Research Findings

A father and his adolescent daughter who coexisted in Siberia more than 50,000 years ago were included in the study’s rare glimpse of Neanderthal family interactions.

DNA could be extracted from microscopic bone fragments discovered in two Russian caves. They utilized the genetic information to map out links between 13 different Neanderthals and get insight into how they lived in their study, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

anthropologist Bence Viola of the University of Toronto remarked, “When I work on a bone or two, it’s effortless to forget that these are truly people with their own lives and stories.” Realizing their connections to one another “truly makes them much more human.”

The Neanderthals are our distant ancestors who inhabited Europe and Asia years ago. They perished some 40,000 years ago, not long after our species, Homo sapiens, crossed the Atlantic from Africa and settled in Europe.

Only recently have researchers been able to delve into the DNA of these early people. Svante Paabo, a recent Nobel laureate and co-author of this study, released the first draught of a Neanderthal genome a little more than ten years ago.

According to the principal author and geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Laurits Skov, scientists have since sequenced the genomes of 18 Neanderthals. But he added that finding many Neanderthal bones from the same period and location was unusual, which is why these cave finds were so noteworthy.

According to Skov, this would be the place to find a Neanderthal community.

According to Viola, the caves in the far-off foothills above a river valley have been a rich source of artifacts, including stone tools and fossil fragments. Because of the caves’ excellent vantage point for spotting migrating herds in the valley below, researchers think Neanderthals may have utilized them as a brief hunting halt.

According to Viola, at least a dozen individual Neanderthals’ remains have been discovered by archaeologists digging the caverns. These fragments of remains, which often consist of “a finger bone here, a tooth there,” are sufficient for researchers to gather important DNA information.

The researchers in the group may find a few family members. There were also two other family members, a kid, and his aunt or a couple of cousins, in addition to the father and daughter.

The research revealed that the group members shared a significant amount of DNA. The authors concluded that this indicates that Neanderthals, at least in this region, lived in tiny communities of 10 to 20 people.

The survey found that not all members of these groups remained where they were.

The Y chromosome, which is carried down on the father’s side, and other genetic hints from mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down on the mother’s side, were examined by researchers.

According to Skov, females may have traveled more than males because the female side of the family showed more significant genetic variations than the male side. It’s feasible that a female Neanderthal might leave her home to live with her partner’s family after finding a mate.


The Neanderthals, also known as Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, were a species or subspecies of archaic humans that lived in Eurasia up to 40,000 years ago. Demographic elements like limited population size, inbreeding, and random variations are thought to be likely influences even if the “causes of Neanderthal disappearance about 40,000 years ago remain fiercely debated.” Other academics have put up theories such as sickness, absorption into the contemporary human genome (bred into extinction), significant climatic change, competitive replacement, or a mix of these.

More to Reveal

John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin who was not involved in the study but praised it for making innovative use of old DNA data, said there are still many questions about Neanderthal social structures and lives.

Hawks compared understanding how early people lived to “putting together a puzzle where we have many, many missing pieces.” The study, however, merely adds “a bunch more pieces to the table,” as the saying goes.