2018-08-22 21:09:46 UTC
Denisovans, the remains of a teenaged girl, has added an unexpected
member to the human family tree.
Mom was a Neanderthal. Dad was something else entirely. Meet the
strangest hybrid in human history.
"From fragments of DNA in a 90,000-year-old finger bone, scientists have
identified a fascinating new character in the story of our evolution:
the first-known offspring of parents from two different branches of the
human family tree.
The bone belonged to a 13-year-old girl whose mother was a Neanderthal
one of the ancient people who inhabited Europe and Asia between 450,000
and 40,000 years ago. But the girl¹s father was a Denisovan a
mysterious offshoot of the genus Homo known only from a few bits of bone
and the faint signatures that still linger in the genomes of modern
The report Wednesday in the journal Nature adds to a growing body of
evidence that ancient hominids including some of our own direct
ancestors interacted and interbred repeatedly over the course of
Modern genetic analyses suggest that people of European and Asian
ancestry have roughly 2 percent Neanderthal DNA, and some East Asians
and Pacific Islanders can trace as much as 6 percent of their genetic
material to the Denisovans. The intermingling was pervasive enough that
some scientists question whether our extinct cousins should be
considered a subpopulation of Homo sapiens, rather than a distinct
species, as they are typically defined today.
But in those studies, any prehistoric hanky-panky seemed like an
abstraction something done by unknown people untold millennia ago.
³The cool thing about this is, this is extremely direct evidence,² said
Svante Pbo, a molecular geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany who led the new research. ³We¹ve
almost caught them in the act, so to speak.²"