Anthropology professor nabs award for best scientific paper

Christina Warinner

Christina Warinner recognized for paper published last spring in FEMS Microbes. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

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Christina Warinner, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sally Starling Seaver Associate Professor at Radcliffe Institute, was named a winner of the 2022 Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS) Article Awards. Selected by editorial boards and select editors-in-chief, the Article Awards recognize the year’s best scientific papers published by FEMS Journals and Oxford University Press.

Warinner and her team won for “Understanding the microbial biogeography of ancient human dentitions to guide study design and interpretation,” published last spring in FEMS Microbes. “Our research focuses on investigating the evolution of the human microbiome,” said a “thrilled” Warinner. “And by analyzing ancient DNA in calcified dental plaque [tooth tartar], we have been able to reconstruct ancient oral microbiomes up to 100,000 years old.”

Their winning paper set out to determine whether tooth selection biases those reconstructions. “This is an important question in archaeology because we are often analyzing older individuals who have lost most of their teeth,” Warinner explained. “We found that tooth selection introduces only very small biases, which is good news for our studies of ancient teeth and the oral microbiome.”

Warinner shares the honor with eight co-authors, including first author Zandra Fagernäs, an archaeogeneticist with Germany’s Max Planck Institute. “This research was truly a team effort,” Warinner said. “I am so grateful to my collaborators who allowed us to sample tooth tartar from their archaeological collections and to the graduate students whose hard work in the lab made this research so successful.”