In this week's Science, an international team of scientists reports the discovery of hominin DNA in cave sediment from archeological sites, even in the absence of skeletal remains. Using targeted enrichment of mitochondrial DNA, the researchers screened sediment samples from seven Pleistocene sites in Europe and Russia where ancient humans are known to have lived, and identified Neandertal DNA in four caves and Denisovan DNA in another. The findings open the possibility to "detect the presence of hominin groups at sites and in areas where no skeletal remains are found." GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.
Also in Science, a group of European scientists publishes an analysis of 14 ancient horse genomes that reveal how domestication altered their genetics. The researchers examined the genomes of early domestic horses from the Bronze and Iron Ages and found that early breeding strategies resulted in suc h characteristics as broader forelimbs, enriched development of carpal bones, and a variety of coat colors. The team's data also challenge the notion that domestic horses descended from a limited number of stallions and constantly restocked through mares, but instead suggest that a large diversity of males took part in early domestication. Finally, the authors propose that the abundance of deleterious mutations observed in modern-day horses is not a result of early domestication, but rather stems from breeding efforts in the last 2,300 years. GenomeWeb also covered this when it was presented at the Biology of Genomes meeting last year.