Insight into Diet of Neanderthals by GC–MS Analysis of Faeces - - Chromatography Online
Insight into Diet of Neanderthals by GC–MS Analysis of Faeces

The Column

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Massachusetts, USA, and University of La Laguna in Spain, have performed gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) analysis of Neanderthal faeces to demonstrate that Neanderthals could have eaten fruit and vegetables and were not necessarily dependent on a meat diet. According to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE, this is significant because it is thought that the specific diet of Neanderthals could have contributed towards the species extinction. (1)

Neanderthals lived on the Earth from around 230,000 to 40,000 years ago before becoming extinct. The reasons for their disappearance has not been established, but it has been theorized that their dependence on meat meant that the modern human species was able to out compete by increasing the variety of foods consumed. Lead author Ainara Sistiaga told The Column: “I have been interested in Neanderthal diet since I started college, we are what we eat. It’s important to understand all aspects of why humanity has come to rule the planet the way it does. A lot of that has to do with improved nutrition over time.”

Sediment samples were collected from the archaeological site El Salt in Alicante, Spain, dating back to 50,000 BP that is known to have been occupied by Neanderthals. Soil samples were collected from different sediment layers that were then extracted using solvents to isolate organic matter prior to analysis performed by GC–MS. The focus of the analysis was on sterols and stanols that are stable throughout the food chain, specifically 5β-stigmastanol and coprostanol that are indicative of cholesterol and phytosterol breakdown in the intestine of mammals, respectively.

Four out of five samples contained coprostanol, indicating cholesterol breakdown and enforcing the theory of a diet dominated by meat, but plant sterol metabolites including 5β-stigmastanol were also identified albeit at lower levels indicating vegetable consumption. Sistiaga said: “The results of this study have several important implications. First, they provide the first direct evidence of omnivory among Neanderthals. Second, they represent the oldest human faecal matter identified using geochemical methods. Third, this is the first time that the faecal biomarker approach is applied in palaeodietary research. This paper also contributes to our knowledge on the diet of Neanderthals and their cholesterol metabolism.” — B.D.

Reference

1. A. Sistiaga, C. Mallol, B. Galván, and R.E. Summons, PLOS ONE 9(6), e101045. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101045 (2014).

ADVERTISEMENT

blog comments powered by Disqus
LCGC E-mail Newsletters
Global E-newsletters subscribe here:




 

LCGC COLUMNISTS 2014

Column Watch: Ron Majors, established authority on new column technologies, keeps readers up-to-date with new sample preparation trends in all branches of chromatography and reviews developments. LATEST: Avoiding Reversed-Phase Chromatography Problems Through Informed Method Development Practices: Choosing the Stationary-Phase Chemistry


Perspectives in Modern HPLC: Michael W. Dong is a senior scientist in Small Molecule Drug Discovery at Genentech in South San Francisco, California. He is responsible for new technologies, automation, and supporting late-stage research projects in small molecule analytical chemistry and QC of small molecule pharmaceutical sciences. LATEST: Seven Common Faux Pas in Modern HPLC


MS — The Practical Art: Kate Yu brings her expertise in the field of mass spectrometry and hyphenated techniques to the pages of LCGC. In this column she examines the mass spectrometric side of coupled liquid and gas-phase systems. Troubleshooting-style articles provide readers with invaluable advice for getting the most from their mass spectrometers. LATEST: Radical Mass Spectrometry as a New Frontier for Bioanalysis


LC Troubleshooting: LC Troubleshooting sets about making HPLC methods easier to master. By covering the basics of liquid chromatography separations and instrumentation, John Dolan is able to highlight common problems and provide remedies for them. LATEST: Estimating Resolution for Marginally Separated Peaks


More LCGC Columnists>>

LCGC North America Editorial Advisory Board>>

LCGC Europe Editorial Advisory Board>>

LCGC Editorial Team Contacts>>


Source: The Column,
Click here