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Neanderthals did not likely consume Physcomitrium patens: a model moss species

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Haas, F., Eisenhofer, R., Schreiber, M., Weyrich, L., & Rensing, S. (submitted). Neanderthals did not likely consume Physcomitrium patens: a model moss species.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000B-3322-5
This manuscript is discussing the method of Weyrich et al., 2017, “Neanderthal behaviour, diet, and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus”. When studying the dietary profile of a Neanderthal specimen from El Sidrón cave (Spain) by sequencing ancient DNA present in calcified dental plaque (calculus) the authors identified a wide-range of potential food sources, including woolly rhinoceros, mushrooms, pine nuts, and moss – namely the less-than-abundant model species Physcomitrium patens. We doubted that Neanderthals were actually eating P. patens. By analyzing the ancient DNA reads using different mapping methods, we show likely a misinterpretation based on the previously used methods. The probability of Neanderthals eating P. patens is the same as eating rice or tomato. However, neither crop was grown in Europe at the time Neanderthals thrived.