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How ancient DNA can be used to understand past selection processes


Our first ADAPT network meeting was held in May 2018, hosted by Love Dalén on Nut Island (Notholmen) in the Stockholm Archipelago under cloudless Swedish skies. After two days of brainstorming, saunas and swimming we left with the outline of a review article. Marianne Dehasque, a PhD student at the new Centre for Palaeogenetics in Stockholm, took on the task weaving together the disparate discussion threads and ideas that had been generated during our Nut Island sojourn. The network members then iteratively built upon Marianne’s first draft, the culmination of which is now published in Evolution Letters. In our Comment and Opinion piece we set out to make the case for the inclusion of ancient DNA time sequences in the study of natural selection, considering the expected signature in time series of data of balancing, purifying and positive selection. Some excellent reviews and opinions have previously made this same point, however, the recent publication of large paleo-population genomic datasets provided the opportunity to relay some of the progression in the field. Furthermore, there is a growing understanding of the caveats and limitations of incorporating ancient DNA data into evolutionary studies, which include the degraded nature of the sequence data, the low and uneven sample sizes and the violation of the assumptions underlying many evolutionary models. We therefore try to build a realistic picture of the size of undertaking that such studies require. Thus, this review should serve as a timely overview of a rapidly progressing field and we hope it will serve to enthuse evolutionary biologists to consider incorporating paleogenomic data in their future study design.


This review is freely available to download: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/evl3.165


We hope to run further events in 2020 as part of the ADAPT special topic network. We will of course tailor these to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, moving networking activities online until further notice. Please check aDNA.network for updates.


Stay safe and well, and look after each other out there folks.


Andy