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This Week in Nature: Feb 22, 2018

In this week's Nature, a Harvard Medical School-led team publishes two studies using genomic techniques to examine the spread of cultural artifacts and agriculture of Neolithic and Bronze Age Europeans. In the first paper, the researchers analyzed genome-wide data on 400 Neolithic, Copper Age, and Bronze Age Europeans from various archaeological sites, including 226 individuals buried with distinctive beaker-shaped pots and certain other cultural objects. They find that beaker-associated peoples were genetically diverse, supporting a model in which cultural transmission and human migration both had important roles. In the second paper, the scientists looked at the genomes of 225 Europeans who lived between 12,000 BC and 500 BC to trace the spread of agriculture, which was introduced to Europe by Anatolian migrants in the mid-seventh millennium BC. They find that farmers of northern and western Europe dispersed through southeastern Europe, which "continued to be a nexus between east and west after the arrival of farmers." GenomeWeb has more on these studies, here.

And in Nature Ecology & Evolution, Danish scientists analyze the genome and gut microbiome of the common vampire bat to explain how the animal has adapted to a diet that is low in nutrients and exposes it to a broad range of blood-borne diseases. They find that while the vampire bat's genome is similar in size to other bat species, it contains around twice the number of transposable elements — many of which are found in genomic regions linked to immune response, viral defense, and lipid and vitamin metabolism. By using the vampire bat's fecal metagenome as a stand-in for the gut microbiome, the investigators also found microbial taxa and functions not found in other species of non-blood-feeding bats, including more than 280 bacterial species known to cause disease in other mammals. The Scan also covers this, here.