The Americas were the last inhabitable continents to be occupied by humans, with a growing multidisciplinary consensus for entry 15-25 thousand years ago (kya) from northeast Asia via the former Beringia land bridge [1-4]. Autosomal DNA analyses have dated the separation of Native American ancestors from the Asian gene pool to 23 kya or later [5, 6] and mtDNA analyses to ∼25 kya , followed by isolation ("Beringian Standstill" [8, 9]) for 2.4-9 ky and then a rapid expansion throughout the Americas. Here, we present a calibrated sequence-based analysis of 222 Native American and relevant Eurasian Y chromosomes (24 new) from haplogroups Q and C , with four major conclusions. First, we identify three to four independent lineages as autochthonous and likely founders: the major Q-M3 and rarer Q-CTS1780 present throughout the Americas, the very rare C3-MPB373 in South America, and possibly the C3-P39/Z30536 in North America. Second, from the divergence times and Eurasian/American distribution of lineages, we estimate a Beringian Standstill duration of 2.7 ky or 4.6 ky, according to alternative models, and entry south of the ice sheet after 19.5 kya. Third, we describe the star-like expansion of Q-M848 (within Q-M3) starting at 15 kya  in the Americas, followed by establishment of substantial spatial structure in South America by 12 kya. Fourth, the deep branches of the Q-CTS1780 lineage present at low frequencies throughout the Americas today  may reflect a separate out-of-Beringia dispersal after the melting of the glaciers at the end of the Pleistocene.
Ancient DNA has significantly improved our understanding of the evolution and population history of extinct megafauna. However, few studies have used complete ancient genomes to examine species responses to climate change prior to extinction. The woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) was a cold-adapted megaherbivore widely distributed across northern Eurasia during the Late Pleistocene and became extinct approximately 14 thousand years before present (ka BP). While humans and climate change have been proposed as potential causes of extinction [1-3], knowledge is limited on how the woolly rhinoceros was impacted by human arrival and climatic fluctuations . Here, we use one complete nuclear genome and 14 mitogenomes to investigate the demographic history of woolly rhinoceros leading up to its extinction. Unlike other northern megafauna, the effective population size of woolly rhinoceros likely increased at 29.7 ka BP and subsequently remained stable until close to the species' extinction. Analysis of the nuclear genome from a ∼18.5-ka-old specimen did not indicate any increased inbreeding or reduced genetic diversity, suggesting that the population size remained steady for more than 13 ka following the arrival of humans . The population contraction leading to extinction of the woolly rhinoceros may have thus been sudden and mostly driven by rapid warming in the Bølling-Allerød interstadial. Furthermore, we identify woolly rhinoceros-specific adaptations to arctic climate, similar to those of the woolly mammoth. This study highlights how species respond differently to climatic fluctuations and further illustrates the potential of palaeogenomics to study the evolutionary history of extinct species.
Extant Canis lupus genetic diversity can be grouped into three phylogenetically distinct clades: Eurasian and American wolves and domestic dogs.1 Genetic studies have suggested these groups trace their origins to a wolf population that expanded during the last glacial maximum (LGM)1-3 and replaced local wolf populations.4 Moreover, ancient genomes from the Yana basin and the Taimyr peninsula provided evidence of at least one extinct wolf lineage that dwelled in Siberia during the Pleistocene.35 Previous studies have suggested that Pleistocene Siberian canids can be classified into two groups based on cranial morphology. Wolves in the first group are most similar to present-day populations, although those in the second group possess intermediate features between dogs and wolves.67 However, whether this morphological classification represents distinct genetic groups remains unknown. To investigate this question and the relationships between Pleistocene canids, present-day wolves, and dogs, we resequenced the genomes of four Pleistocene canids from Northeast Siberia dated between >50 and 14 ka old, including samples from the two morphological categories. We found these specimens cluster with the two previously sequenced Pleistocene wolves, which are genetically more similar to Eurasian wolves. Our results show that, though the four specimens represent extinct wolf lineages, they do not form a monophyletic group. Instead, each Pleistocene Siberian canid branched off the lineage that gave rise to present-day wolves and dogs. Finally, our results suggest the two previously described morphological groups could represent independent lineages similarly related to present-day wolves and dogs.
The sequencing of ancient DNA has enabled the reconstruction of speciation, migration and admixture events for extinct taxa1. However, the irreversible post-mortem degradation2 of ancient DNA has so far limited its recovery-outside permafrost areas-to specimens that are not older than approximately 0.5 million years (Myr)3. By contrast, tandem mass spectrometry has enabled the sequencing of approximately 1.5-Myr-old collagen type I4, and suggested the presence of protein residues in fossils of the Cretaceous period5-although with limited phylogenetic use6. In the absence of molecular evidence, the speciation of several extinct species of the Early and Middle Pleistocene epoch remains contentious. Here we address the phylogenetic relationships of the Eurasian Rhinocerotidae of the Pleistocene epoch7-9, using the proteome of dental enamel from a Stephanorhinus tooth that is approximately 1.77-Myr old, recovered from the archaeological site of Dmanisi (South Caucasus, Georgia)10. Molecular phylogenetic analyses place this Stephanorhinus as a sister group to the clade formed by the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) and Merck's rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis). We show that Coelodonta evolved from an early Stephanorhinus lineage, and that this latter genus includes at least two distinct evolutionary lines. The genus Stephanorhinus is therefore currently paraphyletic, and its systematic revision is needed. We demonstrate that sequencing the proteome of Early Pleistocene dental enamel overcomes the limitations of phylogenetic inference based on ancient collagen or DNA. Our approach also provides additional information about the sex and taxonomic assignment of other specimens from Dmanisi. Our findings reveal that proteomic investigation of ancient dental enamel-which is the hardest tissue in vertebrates11, and is highly abundant in the fossil record-can push the reconstruction of molecular evolution further back into the Early Pleistocene epoch, beyond the currently known limits of ancient DNA preservation.
This article explores the genetic history of the various sub-populations currently living in Peninsular Malaysia. This region has received multiple waves of migrants like the Orang Asli in prehistoric times and the Chinese, Indians, Europeans and Arabs during historic times. There are three highly distinct lineages that make up the Orang Asli; Semang, Senoi and Proto-Malays. The Semang, who have 'Negrito' characteristics, represent the first human settlers in Peninsular Malaysia arriving from about 50,000ya. The Senoi later migrated from Indochina and are a mix between an Asian Neolithic population and the Semang. These Asian genomes probably came in before Austroasiatic languages arrived between 5000 and 4000years ago. Semang and Senoi both now speak Austro-Asiatic languages indicative of cultural diffusion from Senoi to Semang. In contrast, the Proto-Malays who came last to the southern part of this region speak Austronesian language and are Austronesians with some Negrito admixture. It is from this group that the contemporary Malays emerged. Here we provide an overview of the best available genetic evidences (single nucleotide polymorphisms, mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome, blood groups, human platelet antigen, human leukocyte antigen, human neutrophil antigen and killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor) supporting the complex genetic history of Peninsular Malaysia. Large scale sampling and high throughput genetic screening programmes such as those using genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism analyses have provided insights into various ancestral and admixture genetic fractions in this region. Given the now extensive admixture present in the contemporary descendants of ancient sub-populations in Peninsular Malaysia, improved reconstruction of human migration history in this region will require new evidence from ancient DNA in well-preserved skeletons. All other aspects of the highly diverse and complex genetic makeup in Peninsular Malaysia should be considered carefully for genetic mapping of disease loci and policy formation by health authorities.
The human occupation history of Southeast Asia (SEA) remains heavily debated. Current evidence suggests that SEA was occupied by Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherers until ~4000 years ago, when farming economies developed and expanded, restricting foraging groups to remote habitats. Some argue that agricultural development was indigenous; others favor the "two-layer" hypothesis that posits a southward expansion of farmers giving rise to present-day Southeast Asian genetic diversity. By sequencing 26 ancient human genomes (25 from SEA, 1 Japanese Jōmon), we show that neither interpretation fits the complexity of Southeast Asian history: Both Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherers and East Asian farmers contributed to current Southeast Asian diversity, with further migrations affecting island SEA and Vietnam. Our results help resolve one of the long-standing controversies in Southeast Asian prehistory.
Mitochondrial genomes provided the first widely used sequences that were sufficiently informative to resolve relationships among animals across a wide taxonomic domain, from within species to between phyla. However, mitogenome studies supported several anomalous relationships and fell partly out of favour as sequencing multiple, independent nuclear loci proved to be highly effective. A tendency to blame mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has overshadowed efforts to understand and ameliorate underlying model misspecification. Here we find that influential assessments of the infidelity of mitogenome phylogenies have often been overstated, but nevertheless, substitution saturation and compositional non-stationarity substantially mislead reconstruction. We show that RY coding the mtDNA, excluding protein-coding 3rd codon sites, partitioning models based on amino acid hydrophobicity and enhanced taxon sampling improve the accuracy of mitogenomic phylogeny reconstruction for placental mammals, almost to the level of multi-gene nuclear datasets. Indeed, combined analysis of mtDNA with 3-fold longer nuclear sequence data either maintained or improved upon the nuclear support for all generally accepted clades, even those that mtDNA alone did not favour, thus indicating "hidden support". Confident mtDNA phylogeny reconstruction is especially important for understanding the evolutionary dynamics of mitochondria themselves, and for merging extinct taxa into the tree of life, with ancient DNA often only accessible as mtDNA. Our ancient mtDNA analyses lend confidence to the relationships of three extinct megafaunal taxa: glyptodonts are nested within armadillos, the South American ungulate, Macrauchenia is sister to horses and rhinoceroses, and sabre-toothed and scimitar cats are the monophyletic sister-group of modern cats.
Homotherium was a genus of large-bodied scimitar-toothed cats, morphologically distinct from any extant felid species, that went extinct at the end of the Pleistocene [1-4]. They possessed large, saber-form serrated canine teeth, powerful forelimbs, a sloping back, and an enlarged optic bulb, all of which were key characteristics for predation on Pleistocene megafauna . Previous mitochondrial DNA phylogenies suggested that it was a highly divergent sister lineage to all extant cat species [6-8]. However, mitochondrial phylogenies can be misled by hybridization , incomplete lineage sorting (ILS), or sex-biased dispersal patterns , which might be especially relevant for Homotherium since widespread mito-nuclear discrepancies have been uncovered in modern cats . To examine the evolutionary history of Homotherium, we generated a ∼7x nuclear genome and a ∼38x exome from H. latidens using shotgun and target-capture sequencing approaches. Phylogenetic analyses reveal Homotherium as highly divergent (∼22.5 Ma) from living cat species, with no detectable signs of gene flow. Comparative genomic analyses found signatures of positive selection in several genes, including those involved in vision, cognitive function, and energy consumption, putatively consistent with diurnal activity, well-developed social behavior, and cursorial hunting . Finally, we uncover relatively high levels of genetic diversity, suggesting that Homotherium may have been more abundant than the limited fossil record suggests [3, 4, 11-14]. Our findings complement and extend previous inferences from both the fossil record and initial molecular studies, enhancing our understanding of the evolution and ecology of this remarkable lineage.