DNA Analysis Reveals Neanderthal Family Ties

Father, daughter were among 11 found in Siberian cave
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2022 3:02 PM CDT
DNA Analysis Reveals Neanderthal Family Ties
This photo provided by Bence Viola in October 2022 shows the Chagyrskaya Cave area in Siberia, Russia.   (Bence Viola via AP)

The tragic demise of a group of Neanderthals in a cave in Siberia more than 50,000 years ago has given researchers fascinating evidence of our ancient relatives' family ties. DNA analysis has revealed that many of the six adults and five children were close relatives, including a father and his teenage daughter, the New York Times reports. Lead researcher Laurits Skov at the University of California, Berkeley says the findings suggest the 11 all died around the same time, possibly from starvation after a bison hunt failed. The father was closely related to two other adult Neanderthal males found in the Chagyrskaya cave, and an adult woman and a boy were also closely related, researchers say.

This was "one of the largest genetic studies of a Neanderthal population to date," researchers wrote in a study published in the journal Nature. They determined that Neanderthals in the region lived in bands of 10 to 20 people—and that as in many human societies, men tended to stay with the group and women moved to different bands when they found a mate. "We estimate that between 60 to 100% of women in any community actually come from other communities," Skov says. Skov estimates that the total Neanderthal population in Siberia was only around 1,000. The researchers found genetic links between the Chagyrskaya Neanderthals and two Neanderthals found at another cave, Okladnikov.

"When I work on a bone or two, it’s very easy to forget that these are actually people with their own lives and stories," says study author Bence Viola at the University of Toronto, per the AP. "Figuring out how they’re related to each other really makes them much more human." Researchers believe the Chagyrskaya cave, which has yielded more than 90,000 stone tools, was a seasonal stop for migrating Neanderthals. Skov says it's very rare to find bones from multiple Neanderthals from the same time and place. "If there was ever a chance to find a Neanderthal community, this would be it," he says. One of the researchers was Swedish geneticist Svante Paabo, who has been researching Neanderthals for more than 25 years and won a Nobel Prize earlier this month. (More Neanderthals stories.)

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