A comprehensive view of the human evolutionary history cannot ignore the ancestral features of our gut microbiota. To provide some glimpse into the past, an international research group led by the University of Bologna searched for human gut microbiome components in ancient DNA from 14 archeological sediments spanning four stratigraphic units of El Salt Middle Paleolithic site, near Alicante (Spain).

The analysis yielded well-preserved Neanderthal occupation deposits dating around 50,000 years ago.

According to the team’s findings, well-known beneficial gut commensals, populated the intestinal microbiome of Homo since as far back as the last common ancestor between humans and Neanderthals.

“These results allow us to understand which components of the human gut microbiota are essential for our health, as they are integral elements of our biology also from an evolutionary point of view” explains Marco Candela, the professor of the Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology of the University of Bologna, who coordinated the study.

The research was published in Communication Biology.