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Agreements and misunderstandings among three scientific fields: Paleogenomics, archaeology, and human paleontology

AuthorsLalueza-Fox, Carles
Issue DateDec-2013
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
CitationCurrent Anthropology 54(8): S214-S220 (2013)
AbstractThe emergence of paleogenomics (the study and analysis of ancient genomes) has provided a new, powerful source of information that can be used to test previous hypotheses regarding human evolution. However, various misunderstandings concerning the interpretation of genetic data in an archaeological and paleontological context and the existence of different scientific goals tend to hinder the fluent and fruitful collaboration between these fields. Here we explore some of the subjects creating confusion, such as the problems associated with molecular clocks, the difference between sequence divergence and species divergence, and the limitations of the uniparental markers. Limited understanding of how the expression of a genome shapes the phenotype (including morphology and cognition) is the main obstacle to linking the genetic and the morphological evidence available. In the case of Neanderthals (and probably Denisovans, too), it is obvious that the conspicuous morphological differences cannot be explained by differences in a list of about 100 genes alone, thus suggesting that regulatory genomic elements must have been involved. A functional analysis of the genes involved as well as a study of the genomic architecture- a complexity level above the simple DNA message-could help us fill this gap. It is hoped that this future work will lead to the emergence of an interrelated and multidisciplinary view of the study of the past based on real collaborative efforts among disciplines. © 2013 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/673387
Identifiersdoi: 10.1086/673387
issn: 0011-3204
e-issn: 1537-5382
Appears in Collections:(IBE) Artículos
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