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Microbiology: Ancient dental plaque provides clues to changes in diet Nature Communications | Nature’s portfolio

Research press release


Nature Communications

November 23, 2022

Microbiology: paleoplate provides insight into trophic transitions

A research paper suggests that the oral microbiome may have changed as Neolithic people gradually shifted from hunter-gatherer diets to agricultural produce.Nature CommunicationsThe findings, based on ancient DNA found in tartar (calcified dental plaque), reveal the evolution of the human oral microbiome and changes in diet over nearly 30,000 years in prehistoric Italy.


Ancient DNA extracted from lime can be used to examine the oral microbiome of human skeletal remains, providing insights into the diet of ancient humans. Previous studies examining the oral microbiome during the transition to agriculture in ancient Europe have yielded contradictory results, in part because the oral microbiome fluctuated and was affected by environmental traits and living conditions. This can be explained by the possibility of being affected.


Andrea Quagliariello and colleagues use DNA extracted from ancient human dental calculus to identify prehistoric people living in Italy during the Upper Paleolithic (31,000-11,000 BC) and Neolithic (6200-4000 BC). ) and brassica (3500–2200 BC) oral microbiomes from a total of 76 individuals. This data was then combined with the microscopic food residue found in the tartar and archaeological findings. Quagliariello and his colleagues used data for about 30,000 years to map dietary changes from dependence on hunting, to the introduction of fermentation and milk, and finally to dependence on carbohydrates with an agriculture-based diet. Importantly, Quagliariello and colleagues linked changes in the microbiota to evidence of food ingestion (food fragments in dental plaque) and food processing (food debris found in grinding stones and animal remains).

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These findings provide clues for understanding the evolution of the ancient oral microbiome as it relates to dietary changes in prehistoric European populations.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-34416-0

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