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The oldest mitochondrial DNA sample of Sardinia

Characterized by David Caramelli's team, Department of Biology. The study in Scientific Reports

The genetic variability present today in Sardinia is due to a massive migration tha took place from the mainland during the Neolithic and differs much from that of the first inhabitants of the island. This is the evidence found in a research coordinated by David Caramelli of the Department of Biology on the mitochondrial DNA of human fossils dating back to the Mesolithic at the site of Su Carroppu in Sirri (Carbonia). These fossils represent the oldest proof of human presence on the island (about 10 thousand years ago). The work has been published in Scientific Reports (DOI: 10.1038) and it bears also the signatures of the Florentine researcher Alessandra Modi and colleague Silvia Ghirotto from the University of Ferrara. The study was carried out in collaboration with Carlo Luglié from the University of Cagliari.

"What we have extracted from the remains of Su Carroppu and examined through the most advanced technologies for the characterization of mitochondrial DNA is the first available genetic data of the human history of Sardinia," explains David Caramelli. The sequences obtained were compared with ancient and modern genetic data, of fossils from both the island and the mainland, and suggest a discontinuity of the genetic structure that occurred about 3,000 years ago with the arrival of the first farmers and cattle breeders settlers."

Ever since prehistoric times, the Sardinian population was different from that of the rest of Europe. "The Mesolithic sequences of Su Carroppu in fact belong to the so-called J2b1 and I3 groups now present in continental Europe with low (J, <16%) or very low frequencies (I <3%), while it was not found the U group, which instead is carried by more than 80% of the Mesolithic individuals studied so far in Europe," continues Caramelli.

"This work," concludes Caramelli "will be a reference for future research on the population of Italy and southern Europe, which is extremely complex and still lacks important elements".

07 March 2017