Ancient DNA Analysis of Microbes Preserved in Dental Calculus: Challenges And Opportunities

Author(s): Laura Weyrich; Alan Cooper; Keith Dobney

Year: 2018


Sequencing ancient microorganisms using next generation sequencing approaches have truly revolutionized our view of the past. While past paleomicrobiological research was largely restricted to coprolites and sediments, the recent analyses of ancient calcified dental plaque has provided novel insights into ancient human diets, disease, behaviors, and lifestyles. Despite the benefits, obtaining DNA from diverse microbial communities is difficult and is fraught with issues for first time researchers. Site, museum, and laboratory contamination can easily swamp out ancient microorganisms, even in clean facilities and in samples devoid of human DNA contamination. To circumvent future issues, the approaches recently applied to Neandertal dental calculus will be discussed in detail, including sample selection and decontamination, DNA extraction, next generation sequencing library preparation, and downstream bioinformatic analyses. As this application of these techniques is still in its infancy, both the benefits and limitations will be presented, and current problems within the field will be highlighted. Specifically, the potential downfalls of reagent background DNA and cutting-edge methodologies applied in the ancient human DNA research will be discussed in the context of ancient microbial community analysis. Through this dicussion, the methodologies applied in paleomicrobiology will continue to be refined and improved for future research.

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Ancient DNA Analysis of Microbes Preserved in Dental Calculus: Challenges And Opportunities. Laura Weyrich, Alan Cooper, Keith Dobney. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443768)

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Abstract Id(s): 21977