A father and daughter are evidence of Neanderthal family life, researchers say.
DNA from eight adults and five children, seven males and six females, was recovered from a cave in southern Siberia, an area that has proven fruitful for such studies.
As part of the largest number of Neanderthal remains sequenced in a single study, the researchers found several so-called heterogeneities between individuals.
These are a specific genetic variation that lasts only a few generations and are therefore a clear sign of some kind of family connection.
In addition to the father and his teenage daughter, a pair of second-degree relatives were found – a young boy and an adult female, possibly a cousin, aunt or grandmother.
“The fact that they were living at the same time was very exciting,” said study author Laurits Skov.
“This means they are likely from the same social community. So, for the first time, we can use genetics to study the social organization of Neanderthal communities.”
The cave where the remains were found has been a treasure trove of previous research.
Chagilskaya Cave has been excavated several times over the past 14 years and has uncovered more than 80 fragments of Neanderthal bones and teeth, as well as hundreds of thousands of stone tools and animal bones.
Neanderthals at Chagyrskaya and another cave, Okladnikov, hunted horses, bison and other animals that migrated through the nearby river valley.
They made the tools from raw materials collected from dozens of kilometers away, and the new genetic data provides further evidence that the groups living in the cave are closely related.
Benjamin Peter, another author of the study, said: “Our study provides a concrete picture of what a Neanderthal community might have looked like.
“It makes Neanderthals seem more human to me.”
Previous work done at the site also suggested that Neanderthals interacted with another ancient population known as the Denisovans.
Both have existed in the region for hundreds of thousands of years, A previous study found that each group had a mother and father of a cave girl.
But genetic diversity within the community found in Chagyrskaya was extremely low, consistent with a small group of 10 to 20 people.
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