Some Pacific Islanders have DNA of a previously unknown human ancestor

papua-new-guinea

❝ Most everyone knows that the islands of the South Pacific are some of the most remote and unique places on Earth, but a new study reveals just how unique they really are.

…Researchers have found traces of a previously unknown extinct hominid species in the DNA of the Melanesians, a group living in an area northeast of Australia that encompasses Papua New Guinea and the surrounding islands.

❝ A computer analysis suggests that the unidentified ancestral hominid species found in Melanesian DNA is unlikely to be either Neanderthal or Denisovan, the two known predecessors of humankind to this point.

❝ Archaeologists have found many Neanderthal fossils in Europe and Asia, and although the only Denisovan DNA comes from a finger bone and a couple of teeth discovered in a Siberian cave, both species are well represented in the fossil record.

But now genetic modeling of the Melanesians has revealed a third, different human ancestor that may be an extinct, distinct cousin of the Neanderthals.

“We’re missing a population, or we’re misunderstanding something about the relationships,” said researcher Ryan Bohlender…“Human history is a lot more complicated than we thought it was.”

One of the confounding delights of scientific methods becoming more accurate, more capable of revealing features contributing to a much larger system – the analysis can become more complex and expand the search for knowledge at the same time.

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