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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

DNA from Ancient Denisovan Tooth Sheds Light on Mysterious Human Relative

The Denisovans are a mysterious hominid species that we only know about from two molar teeth and the bone of a pinky finger discovered in the remote Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. However, DNA extracted from the fossils has opened a window in understanding this ancient species and how it impacted the world tens of thousands of years ago. New research now reveals that far from being a small, isolated population, the Denisovans ranged widely across Asia, even persisting for tens of thousands of years alongside Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens, interbreeding with both and creating a complex family tree that scientists are still trying to unravel.
Scientists first discovered that a previously unknown species of early human had lived in Asia when teeth and bone fragments were found in the Denisova cave. DNA analyses revealed that the fossils belonged to a species that was related to, but genetically distinct from, Neanderthals, and which roamed the plains of Siberia long before modern humans arrived.

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