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Hendrik Nicholas Poinar (born May 31, 1969 in Utrecht, Netherlands)[1] is an evolutionary biologist specializing in ancient DNA.[2][3] Poinar first became known for extracting DNA sequences from ground sloth coprolites.[4] He is currently director of the Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.[5]

Education and academic careerEdit

The son of noted entomologist George Poinar, Jr. and Eva Hecht-Poinar, Poinar received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo in 1992 and 1999 respectively before earning a Ph.D. in 1999 from the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, after which he was a postdoctoral researcher from 2000 to 2003 at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.[1] In 2003 he was hired as an assistant professor in the anthropology department at McMaster University in Canada.[1][5]

In a joint 2000 paper in Science, Poinar and Dr. Alan Cooper argued that much existing work in human ancient DNA has not been sufficiently rigorous to prevent DNA contamination from modern human sources, and that many reported results for ancient human DNA may therefore be suspect.[6]

In 2003, Poinar and others from the Max Planck Institute published genetic sequences isolated from coprolites of the extinct Shasta giant ground sloth,[4] with an estimated age of 10500 years using radiocarbon dates. These were the first genetic sequences retrieved from any extinct ground sloth.[7]

In September 2008, Poinar's laboratory published results showing that after a long period of separation in the mammoth populations of Siberia and North America, the Siberian mammoth population had been completely replaced by mammoths of North American origin.[8][9][10]

In 2014, Poinar and colleagues published the first genomic data from victims of the Plague of Justinian in Bavaria, demonstrating that this plague was caused by a strain of Yersinia pestis now extinct.[11][12]


  1. ^ a b c "Curriculum Vitae of Hendrik Nicholas Poinar" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-20. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  2. ^ Pickrell, John (March 25, 2004). "Prehistoric DNA to Help Solve Human-Evolution Mysteries?". National Geographic News. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  3. ^ "Hunt for ancient human molecules". BBC News. 16 February 2004. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  4. ^ a b Poinar H, Kuch M, McDonald G, Martin P, Pääbo S (2000). Nuclear gene sequences from a Late Pleistocene sloth coprolite. Current Biology . 13: 1150–1152, doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00450-0 [1][permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b "Profile from the McMaster Department of Anthropology". Archived from the original on 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  6. ^ Cooper A and Poinar H. (2000). Ancient DNA: Do It Right or Not at All. Science. 289(5482): p. 1139, doi:10.1126/science.289.5482.1139b [2]
  7. ^ Berkowitz, Jacob (June 19, 2004). "The poop on ancient man". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
  8. ^ McIlroy, Anne (December 20, 2005). "Will woolly mammoths live again? Ancient DNA found in frozen mammoth". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on December 25, 2005. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  9. ^ Fountain, Henry (September 4, 2008). "Dual Citizenship for Woolly Mammoth". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-09.
  10. ^ Debruyne, Régis; G. Chu; C. E. King; K. Bos; M. Kuch; C. Schwarz; P. Szpak; D. R. Gröcke; P. Matheus; G. Zazula; D. Guthrie; D. Froese; B. Buigues; C. de Marliave; C. Flemming; D. Poinar; D. Fisher; J. Southon; A. N. Tikhonov; R.D.E. MacPhee; H. N. Poinar (September 2008). "Out of America: Ancient DNA Evidence for a New World Origin of Late Quaternary Woolly Mammoths". Current Biology. 18 (17): 1320–1326. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.07.061. PMID 18771918. Retrieved 2008-09-09.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Hogenboom, Melissa. "Could bubonic plague strike again?". BBC.
  12. ^ Wagner, David M; J. Klunk; M. Harbeck; A. Devault; N. Waglechner; J. W. Sahl; J. Enk; D. N. Birdsell; M. Kuch; C. Lumibao; D. Poinar; T. Pearson; M. Fourment; B. Golding; J. M. Riehm; D. J. D. Earn; S. DeWitte; J.-M. Rouillard; G. Grupe; I. Wiechmann; J. B. Bliska; P. S. Keim; H. C. Scholz; E. C. Holmes; H. Poinar (28 January 2014). "Yersinia pestis and the Plague of Justinian 541—543 AD: a genomic analysis". The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 14 (4): 319. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70323-2. PMID 24480148.

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