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Study Examines Ancient Siberian Genomes

Monday, January 11, 2021

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—According to a Science News report, evolutionary geneticists Anders Götherström and Gülşah Merve Kilinç of Stockholm University and their colleagues analyzed the genomes of 40 people who lived in eastern Siberia between 16,900 and 550 years ago, and compared their DNA to that of other ancient and modern peoples. The study suggests that some 8,300 years ago, a migratory event took place east and west of southern Siberia’s Lake Baikal, one of the largest lakes in the world. Then, in the region to the west of the lake, people continued to move, while people living to the east of the lake experienced less mobility over a period of thousands of years. The researchers also detected an association between 6,000-year-old remains from the Lake Baikal region and 4,000-year-old Paleo-Inuit remains discovered on Greenland. It had been previously suspected that the two groups could be related based upon archaeological evidence. Traces of the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which causes the plague, were found in the genes of a person who lived some 3,800 years ago in northeastern Siberia, and someone who lived west of Lake Baikal some 4,400 years ago. The researchers explained that this population seems to have decreased in size at about this time. Further study is needed, however, to see if the drop in population can be attributed to a plague outbreak, they added. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Science Advances. For more on the plague, go to "A Killer Bacterium Expands Its Legacy."

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