Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More on the Denisovan People

I already called to your attention the anomalous, 30,000-year-old DNA of the finger bone from Denisova Cave in Siberia, which seems to come from a human species neither ours nor Neanderthal. Now this discovery is back in the news because a second specimen has been identified, a tooth, and because of some extended genetic analysis. This analysis suggests that Denisovans (as they are now being called) interbred with modern humans, and that traces of their DNA can be identified in the genomes of contemporary people in New Guinea.

"We don't think the Denisovans went to Papua New Guinea," located at the northwestern edge of the Pacific region called Melanesia, explained study co-author Bence Viola, an anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

"We think the Denisovan population inhabited most of eastern Eurasia in the same way that Neanderthals inhabited most of western Eurasia," Viola said. "Our idea is that the ancestors of Melanesians met the Denisovans in Southeast Asia and interbred, and the ancestors of Melanesians then moved on to Papua New Guinea."

Keep in mind the caution I always offer about new genetic results, that it will all be very interesting if it turns out to be true.

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