Project description:Genetic investigations on eukaryotic plankton confirmed the existence of modern biogeographic patterns, but analyses of palaeoecological data exploring the temporal variability of these patterns have rarely been presented. Ancient sedimentary DNA proved suitable for investigations of past assemblage turnover in the course of environmental change, but genetic relatedness of the identified lineages has not yet been undertaken. Here, we investigate the relatedness of diatom lineages in Siberian lakes along environmental gradients (i.e. across treeline transects), over geographic distance and through time (i.e. the last 7000 years) using modern and ancient sedimentary DNA. Our results indicate that closely-related Staurosira lineages occur in similar environments and less-related lineages in dissimilar environments, in our case different vegetation and co-varying climatic and limnic variables across treeline transects. Thus our study reveals that environmental conditions rather than geographic distance is reflected by diatom-relatedness patterns in space and time. We tentatively speculate that the detected relatedness pattern in Staurosira across the treeline could be a result of adaptation to diverse environmental conditions across the arctic boreal treeline, however, a geographically-driven divergence and subsequent repopulation of ecologically different habitats might also be a potential explanation for the observed pattern.
Project description:Denisova Cave in southern Siberia uniquely contains evidence of occupation by a recently discovered group of archaic hominins, the Denisovans, starting from the middle of the Middle Pleistocene. Artefacts, ancient DNA and a range of animal and plant remains have been recovered from the sedimentary deposits, along with a few fragmentary fossils of Denisovans, Neanderthals and a first-generation Neanderthal-Denisovan offspring. The deposits also contain microscopic traces of hominin and animal activities that can provide insights into the use of the cave over the last 300,000 years. Here we report the results of a micromorphological study of intact sediment blocks collected from the Pleistocene deposits in the Main and East Chambers of Denisova Cave. The presence of charcoal attests to the use of fire by hominins, but other evidence of their activities preserved in the microstratigraphic record are few. The ubiquitous occurrence of coprolites, which we attribute primarily to hyenas, indicates that the site was visited for much of its depositional history by cave-dwelling carnivores. Microscopic traces of post-depositional diagenesis, bioturbation and incipient cryoturbation are observed in only a few regions of the deposit examined here. Micromorphology can help identify areas of sedimentary deposit that are most conducive to ancient DNA preservation and could be usefully integrated with DNA analyses of sediments at archaeological sites to illuminate features of their human and environmental history that are invisible to the naked eye.
Project description:Over the past few years, studies of DNA isolated from human fossils and archaeological remains have generated considerable novel insight into the history of our species. Several landmark papers have described the genomes of ancient human ancestors and have demonstrated that contemporary humans harbour genetic material from ancient close relatives, the Neanderthals and Denisovans, and that ancient human individuals are often genetically distinct from nearby extant populations whilst also showing affinities with populations from further afield. Across West Eurasia, there is growing genetic evidence of large-scale, dynamic population movements over the period between 10,000 to 2,000 years ago, such that the ancestry across present-day populations is likely to be a mixture of several ancient groups. Whilst these efforts are bringing the details of West Eurasian prehistory into increasing focus, studies aimed at understanding the processes behind the generation of the current West Eurasian genetic landscape have been limited by the number of populations sampled, or have been either too regional or global in their outlook. Here, using recently described haplotype-based techniques, we present the results of a systematic survey of recent admixture history across Western Eurasia and show that admixture is a universal property across almost all groups. Admixture in all regions except North Western Europe involved the influx of genetic material from outside of West Eurasia, which we date to specific time periods. Within Northern, Western, and Central Europe, admixture tended to occur between local groups during the period 300 to 1200CE. Comparisons of the genetic profiles of West Eurasians before and after admixture show that population movements within the last 1500 years are likely to have maintained differentiation amongst groups. Our analysis provides a timeline of the gene flow events that have generated the contemporary genetic landscape of West Eurasia. 20 individuals from Croatia included as part of an analysis of admixture in West Eurasia
Project description:Sediments from Tibetan lakes in NW China are potentially sensitive recorders of climate change and its impact on ecosystem function. However, the important plankton members in many Tibetan Lakes do not make and leave microscopically diagnostic features in the sedimentary record. Here we established a taxon-specific molecular approach to specifically identify and quantify sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) of non-fossilized planktonic organisms preserved in a 5-m sediment core from Kusai Lake spanning the last 3100 years. The reliability of the approach was validated with multiple independent genetic markers. Parallel analyses of the geochemistry of the core and paleo-climate proxies revealed that Monsoon strength-driven changes in nutrient availability, temperature, and salinity as well as orbitally-driven changes in light intensity were all responsible for the observed temporal changes in the abundance of two dominant phytoplankton groups in the lake, Synechococcus (cyanobacteria) and Isochrysis (haptophyte algae). Collectively our data show that global and regional climatic events exhibited a strong influence on the paleoecology of phototrophic plankton in Kusai Lake.
Project description:Contamination with exogenous DNA is a constant hazard to ancient DNA studies, since their validity greatly depend on the ancient origin of the retrieved sequences. Since contamination occurs sporadically, it is fundamental to show positive evidence for the authenticity of ancient DNA sequences even when preventive measures to avoid contamination are implemented. Recently the presence of wheat in the United Kingdom 8000 years before the present has been reported based on an analysis of sedimentary ancient DNA (Smith et al. 2015). Smith et al. did not present any positive evidence for the authenticity of their results due to the small number of sequencing reads that were confidently assigned to wheat. We developed a computational method that compares postmortem damage patterns of a test dataset with bona fide ancient and modern DNA. We applied this test to the putative wheat DNA and find that these reads are most likely not of ancient origin.
Project description:Far too little is known about the long-term dynamics of populations for almost all macro-organisms. Here, we examined the utility of sedimentary DNA techniques to reconstruct the dynamics in the "abundance" of a species, which has not been previously defined. We used fish DNA in marine sediments and examined whether it could be used to track the past dynamics of pelagic fish abundance in marine waters. Quantitative PCR for sedimentary DNA was applied on sediment-core samples collected from anoxic bottom sediments in Beppu Bay, Japan. The DNA of three dominant fish species (anchovy, sardine, and jack mackerel) were quantified in sediment sequences spanning the last 300 years. Temporal changes in fish DNA concentrations are consistent with those of landings in Japan for all three species and with those of sardine fish scale concentrations. Thus, sedimentary DNA could be used to track decadal-centennial dynamics of fish abundance in marine waters.
Project description:Dating the start of intensive anthropogenic influence on ecosystems is important for identifying the conditions necessary for ecosystem recovery. However, few studies have focused on determining when anthropogenic influences on wetland began through sedimentary archives. To fill this critical gap in our knowledge, combustion sources and emission intensities, reconstructed via black carbon (BC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were analyzed in two wetlands in the Sanjiang Plain in Northeast China. (14)C provided age control for the sedimentary records. By combining previous sedimentary and archaeological studies, we attempt to date the beginning of intensive anthropogenic influences on the Sanjiang Plain. Our results showed that BC deposition fluxes increased from 0.02 to 0.7 g C/m(2).yr during the last 10,000 years. An upward trend was apparent during the last 500 years. Before 1200 cal yr BP, human activities were minor, such that the wetland ecosystem in the Sanjiang Plain before this period may represent the reference conditions that for the recovery of these wetlands. As the human population increased after 1200 cal yr BP, combustion sources changed and residential areas became a major source of BC and PAHs. In this way, the wetland ecosystem gradually became more heavily influenced by human activities.
Project description:Over the past few years, studies of DNA isolated from human fossils and archaeological remains have generated considerable novel insight into the history of our species. Several landmark papers have described the genomes of ancient humans across West Eurasia, demonstrating the presence of large-scale, dynamic population movements over the last 10,000 years, such that ancestry across present-day populations is likely to be a mixture of several ancient groups [1-7]. While these efforts are bringing the details of West Eurasian prehistory into increasing focus, studies aimed at understanding the processes behind the generation of the current West Eurasian genetic landscape have been limited by the number of populations sampled or have been either too regional or global in their outlook [8-11]. Here, using recently described haplotype-based techniques , we present the results of a systematic survey of recent admixture history across Western Eurasia and show that admixture is a universal property across almost all groups. Admixture in all regions except North Western Europe involved the influx of genetic material from outside of West Eurasia, which we date to specific time periods. Within Northern, Western, and Central Europe, admixture tended to occur between local groups during the period 300 to 1200 CE. Comparisons of the genetic profiles of West Eurasians before and after admixture show that population movements within the last 1,500 years are likely to have maintained differentiation among groups. Our analysis provides a timeline of the gene flow events that have generated the contemporary genetic landscape of West Eurasia.
Project description:Premise of the Study:DNA may be preserved for thousands of years in very cold or dry environments, and plant tissue fragments and pollen trapped in soils and shallow aquatic sediments are well suited for the molecular characterization of past floras. However, one obstacle in this area of study is the limiting bias in the bioinformatic classification of short fragments of degraded DNA from the large, complex genomes of plants. Methods:To establish one possible baseline protocol for the rapid classification of short-read shotgun metagenomic data for reconstructing plant communities, the read classification programs Kraken, Centrifuge, and MegaBLAST were tested on simulated and ancient data with classification against a reference database targeting plants. Results:Performance tests on simulated data suggest that Kraken and Centrifuge outperform MegaBLAST. Kraken tends to be the most conservative approach with high precision, whereas Centrifuge has higher sensitivity. Reanalysis of 13,000 years of ancient sedimentary DNA from North America characterizes potential post-glacial vegetation succession. Discussion:Classification method choice has an impact on performance and any downstream interpretation of results. The reanalysis of ancient DNA from glacial lake sediments yielded vegetation histories that varied depending on method, potentially changing paleoecological conclusions drawn from molecular evidence.