Would you eat them in a box?

1 minute read

Rex Dalton's piece on Neandertal DNA in last week's Nature included this:

The DNA bug has also bitten [Alban] Defleur, who is seeking to collaborate with one of the gene-hunting teams. His group has already found dozens of fragments of Neanderthal bones at Moula-Guercy, representing at least six individuals, both juvenile and adult. "I think there are many more here," says Defleur. [Tim] White, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley, has excavated with Defleur from France to Ethiopia and says: "Defleur's high-quality excavation and recovery at Moula-Guercy rivals that of modern forensics."

Sounds like a push is on -- will field sites get more funding if they have the promise of DNA retrieval? Will this draw more money away from sites without great faunal preservation (from which one might infer the possibility of hominid bone preservation)?

A key advantage of the Moula-Guercy site is that the bones are well preserved -- because of the cannibalism that removes the flesh and thus destructive bacteria. Long bones have been cracked open for the marrow, which may increase the likelihood that DNA will survive, says White, an authority on cannibalistic practices.
White suspects this may be why Pääbo was successful in sequencing DNA from the Croatia samples: because they were from a site, called Vindija, where cannibalism was practised.