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Laboratory | Bioinformatic | Genomics | DNA



Published on 18 June 2019
 The team is studying the genome of extinct species from archaeological samples of tens of thousands of years. Bones and fossilized feces are analyzed by means of high-throughput DNA sequencing methods to characterize both the genome and diet of these species. Studies are conducted in several major archaeological sites such as the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc Grotte (Ardèche, France) and Trois-frères Grotte (Ariège, France).

Team Leader
+33 1 69 08 40 35


Human resources
Jean-Marc ELALOUF, CEA Researcher
Marie-Claude KERGOAT, CEA Researcher
 Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, cave bear. © Valérie Feruglio, MCC-CNP Périgueux.


Paleogenomics of the fauna of the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc Grotte

Our team is associated with multidisciplinary research in major archaeological sites discovered during the last two decades (Chauvet-Pont d'Arc, Cussac) or sites whose resources for research remained intact a century after their discovery (Trois-frères). In these decorated caves from the Upper Palaeolithic, we study the DNA of the animal remains with the objective to reconstitute complete genomes (especially of extinct species) using methods of high-throughput DNA sequencing.
Analysis of fossilized feces (coproliths) allows us to characterize the DNA of a species and its diet. Radiocarbon datations are also performed with different partners. The whole data are integrated in a perspective of characterization of the biocenosis of caves, species interactions, and relationships between man and animals for the use of underground space.


Sampling in the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc Cave. © Frédéric Maksud, MCC, DRAC Midi-Pyrénées.

Work done in the Cave of Chauvet-Pont d'Arc have led to obtain the complete sequence of the mitochondrial genome of the cave bear, and showed that the bears who lived in the cave, of low genetic diversity, are late specimens of the species. The cave bear, which became extinct during the last great glaciation, would have disappeared from Ardèche at - 30 000 years. This gives a minimum age, dating back to the Aurignacian, to the naturalistic representations of bears in the Chauvet Cave.

 Our current works highlight the use of new sequencing methods to analyze DNA from one species and its food thanks to genetic material contained in the coproliths. In particular, we showed the good preservation of DNA in hyena coproliths. The analysis of the food diversity of this large predator-charognard from the Pleistocene is underway. This project will provide information on the ancient genomes of species whose remains are rare and poorly studied. A study is also underway on a wolf specimen of Chauvet-Pont d'Arc Grotte.





Hyena cave coprolith. . © Frédéric Maksud, MCC, DRAC Midi-Pyrénées