Research: DNA shows girl had one Denisovan parent, one Neanderthal

DNA from just a single cave in Siberia revealed that it had been occupied by two archaic human groups that had interbred with the newly arrived modern humans. This included both the Neanderthals, whom we knew about previously, and the Denisovans, who we didn’t even know existed and still know little about other than their DNA sequences. The DNA also revealed that one of the Denisovans had a Neanderthal ancestor a few hundred generations back in his past…

Now, the same cave has yielded a bone fragment that indicates the interbreeding may have been common. DNA sequencing revealed that the bone fragment’s original owner had a mom that was Neanderthal and a father who was Denisovan. The fact that we have so few DNA samples from this time and that one is the immediate product of intermating gives us a strong hint that we should expect more examples in the future.

The Denisova Cave sits within Russia near its borders with China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. It appears to have conditions that favor the preservation of ancient DNA, as bones from the site have yielded high-quality genomes from both Neanderthals and Denisovans. It does not seem to have favored the preservation of skeletons themselves, as most material has been fragmentary; all we know about the appearance of Denisovans comes from a molar and a small finger bone, though dating indicates they occupied the cave more than 30,000 years after the Neanderthal.

Fascinating stuff…even if you’re already beyond fundamentalist fairy-tales.

7 thoughts on “Research: DNA shows girl had one Denisovan parent, one Neanderthal

  1. Behold the impossible says:

    Modern humans inherited viral defenses from Neanderthals (Stanford University — School of Humanities and Sciences 10/4/18) Neanderthals mysteriously disappeared about 40,000 years ago, but before vanishing they interbred with another human species that was just beginning its global spread. As a result of these ancient trysts, many modern Europeans and Asians today harbor about 2 percent of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes.

  2. Ooola says:

    “7,000-year-old Indonesian woman reshapes views on early humans : Research on remains provides first clue that mixing between early humans in Indonesia and Siberia happened earlier than previously thought.”
    “Theories about early human migration in Asia could be transformed by the research published in the scientific journal Nature in August, after analysis of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), or the genetic fingerprint, of the woman who was given a ritual burial in an Indonesian cave, according to the Reuters news agency which reported these findings on Wednesday.
    “There is the possibility that the Wallacea region could have been a meeting point of two human species, between the Denisovans and early homo sapiens,” said Basran Burhan, an archaeologist from Australia’s Griffith University.
    Burhan, one of the scientists who participated in the research, was referring to the region of Indonesia that includes South Sulawesi, where the body, buried with rocks in its hands and on the pelvis, was found in the Leang Pannige cave complexes.” (see related stories)
    (Nature 8/25/21): “Genome of a middle Holocene hunter-gatherer from Wallacea”

  3. Wonmug says:

    A tooth unearthed from a remote cave in Laos is helping to sketch an unknown chapter in the human story.
    Researchers believe the tooth belonged to a young female who lived at least 130,000 years ago and was likely a Denisovan — an enigmatic group of early humans first identified in 2010.
    The lower molar is the first fossil evidence placing Denisovans in Southeast Asia and may help untangle a puzzle that had long vexed experts in human evolution.

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