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Poinar Hendrik, Professor | Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Paleogenetics

Hendrik Poinar

Professor | Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Paleogenetics

Department of Anthropology

Area(s) of Interest:


Research & Supervisory Interests

I am a molecular evolutionary geneticist and biological anthropologist by training, and rely heavily on interdisciplinary research. I use both chemical and molecular techniques to elucidate the state of preservation within forensic, archeological and paleontological remains. This information is subsequently used to devise novel techniques to extract the molecular information (DNA, RNA and/or protein sequences) and use it to address anthropological questions, such as the identification of pathogens responsible for past pandemics (i.e. The Black Death, The Plague of Justinian) as well as the evolutionary dynamics of infectious disease (i.e. Vibrio cholera).


PhD Ludwig Maximillian Universität Münich, 1999


Courses (2016-17)


  • Anthrop 2D03 - DNA Meets Anthropology
  • Anthrop 744 - Topics in Biological Anthropology



  • Anthrop 2U03 - Plagues and People


Courses (2015-16)


  • Anthrop 3R03- DNA, Ancestry & Migration
  • Anthrop 4GS3 - Genetics and Society


Courses (2014-15)


  • Anthrop 744 - Topics in Biological Anthropology: Ancient Biomolecules and Bioarchaeological Chemistry


  • Anthrop 2DO3 - Genetics for Anthropologists
  • Anthrop 4GS3 - Genetics and Society


Selected Publications


2014 Palkopoulou, E., Mallick, S., Skoglund, P., Enk, J., Rohland, N., Li, H., Omark, A., Vartanyan, S., Poinar, H., Götherström, A., Reich, D., Dalén, L., Hetereochronous woolly mammoth genomes reveal demographic and genetic declines. Nature.  


2014 Marciniak, S., Klunk, J., Davault, A., Enk, J., Poinar, H., Ancient DNA in the Genomic Era: Reconstructing Human Evolutionary Pathways. Journal of Human Evolution.


2014 Enk, J., Devault, A., Widga, C., Saunders, J., Spazk, P., Zaxula, G., Macphee, R., Froese, D., Fisher, D., and  H.N. Poinar. Complete mitogenome phylogeography of Mammuthus from southern North America suggests a deep interspecific chronology. Molecular Ecology.


2014 Gutierrez-Garcia, T.A., Vazquez-Dominguez, E., Arroyo-Cabrales, J., Kuch, M., Enk, J., King, C., and H.N. Poinar. Ancient DNA and the Tropics: a rodent’s tale. Biology Letters (Roy Soc). 10: 20140224 (

2014 Devault, A.M., Golding, G.B., Waglechner, N., Enk, J., Kuch, M., Tien, J., Shi, M., Fisman, D., Dhody, A.D., Forrest, S., Bos, K., Earn, D.J.D., Holmes, E.D., and H.N. Poinar.  A ‘Classical’ genome for the second pandemic strain of Vibrio cholerae, Philadelphia, 1849. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(4):334-40.

2014 Devault, A., Jaing, C., Gardner, S., Porter. T.M., Enk, J., Thissen, J., Allen, J., Borucki, M., DeWitte, S.,  Dhody, A., McLoughin, K., and H.N Poinar. Ancient pathogen DNA in archaeological samples detected with a Microbial Detection Array. Nature Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/srep04245.

2014 Wagner, D., Klunk, J., Harbeck, M., Devault, A., Waglechner, N., Sah, J.W., Enk, J., Birdsell, D., Kuch, M., Lumibao, C.J., Poinar, D., Pearson, T., Fourment, M., Golding, B., Riehm, J.,. Earn, D.J., DeWitte, S., Rouillard, J.M., Grupe, G., Wiechmann, I., Bliska, J.B., Keim, P., Scholz, H., Holmes, E., and H.N. Poinar, 2014.  The Plague of Justinian was caused by a ‘dead-end’ emergence of Yersinia pestis. The Lancet Infectious Disease (doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70323-2.).

2014 Enk, J., Devault, A., Kuch, M., Murgha, Y., Rouillard, J.M., and H.N. Poinar. Ancient Whole Genome Enrichment Using Modern DNA-Derived Baits. Molecular Biology and Evolution (231 (5): 1292-1294.

2011 Enk, J., Debruyne, R., Devault, A. King, C., Treagen,T., O’Rourke, D., Salzberg, S., Fisher, D., MacPhee, R., and Hendrik Poinar 2011. Columbian Mammoth Mitogenome  Suggests  Interbreeding  with Woolly  Mammoths. Genome Biology, doi:10.1186/gb-2011-12-5-r51

2011 Bos, K., Schuenemann, V., Golding, B., Burbano, H., Waglechner, N., Coombes, B., McPhee, J., DeWitte, S., Meyer, M., Schmedes, S., Wood, J., Earn, S., Herring, A., Bauer, P., Poinar, H.N. and Johannes Krause, 2011. A draft genome of Yersinia pestis from victims of the Black Death, Nature 478, 506–510.

2011. Herald waves of cholera in 19th century London. (with Tien, J., Fisman, D., and Earn, D.) Journal of the Royal Society Interface 8(58), 756-760.

2011. Ancient DNA from lake sediments: bridging the gap between palaeoecology and genetics. (with Anderson-Carpenter, L.L., McLachlan, J.S., Jackson, S.T., Kuch, M., and Lumibao, C.) BMC Evolutionary Biology11:30 1-15.

2010. A quantitative assessment of the sensitivity of various commercially available reverse transcriptases on low copy number RNA levels. (with Okello, J.B.A., Rodriquez, L., Poinar, D., Bos, K., Okwi, A.L., Bimenya, G.S., Sewankambo, N.K., Henry, K.R., and Kuch, M.) PLOS-ONE 5(11), e13931.

2010. A quantitative and qualitative comparison of total nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) yields from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues using ten different extraction methods. (with Okello, J., Zurek, J., Devault A., Kuch, M., Okwi, A.L., Wewankambo, N., Bimenya, G., and Poinar, D.) Analytical Biochemistry 400(1), 110-117.

2010. Regional differences in bone collagen d13C and d15N of Pleistocene mammoths: implications for palaeoecology of mammoth steppe. (with Szpak, P., Grocke, D., Debruyne, R., MacPhee, R., Guthrie, D., Froese, D., and Zazula, G.)Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, and Palaeoecology 286, 88-96.

2009. A quantitative approach to detect and overcome PCR inhibition in ancient DNA extracts. (with King, C., Debruyne, R., Kuch, M., and Schwarz C.) Biotechniques 47(5), 351-356.

2009. New insights from old bones: DNA preservation and degradation in permafrost preserved mammoth remains. (with Schwarz, C., Debruyne, R., Kuch, M., McNally, E., Schwarcz, H., Aubrey, A., and Bada, J.) Nucleic Acids Research 37(10), 3215-3229.

2009. Time-dependency of molecular rates in ancient DNA datasets, a sampling artefact? (with Debruyne, R.) Systematic Biology58(3),348-60

2003. Molecular caving. (with Hofrieter, M., Mead J., and Martin, P.S.) Current Biology. 13, 693-695.

2003. Nuclear gene sequences from a Late Pleistocene sloth coprolite. (with Kuch, M., McDonald, G., Martin, P.S. and Paabo, S.)Current Biology 13, 1150-1152.

2002. The genetic secrets some fossils hold. Accounts of Chemical Research, 35, 676-84.

2001. Molecular analyses of oral polio vaccine samples. (with Kuch, M. and Paabo, S.) Science 292, 743-744.

2001. A molecular analyses of the dietary diversity for three archaic native americans. (With Kuch, M., Sobolik, K., Barnes, I., Stankiewicz, B.A., Spaulding, G., Bryant, V., Cooper, A. & Paabo S.) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 98, 4317-4322.

2000. Ancient DNA: Do it right or not at all. (with A. Cooper) Science 289, 1139.

1998. Molecular Coproscopy: Dung and Diet from of the extinct ground sloth Nothrotheriops shastensis. (with Hofreiter, M., Spaulding, G., Martin, P.S., Stankiewicz, A. B., Bland, H. Evershed, R. P., Possnert, G., Paabo, S.) Science 281, 402-406.