DNA reveals first-known child of Neanderthal and Denisovan, study says

DNA reveals first-known child of Neanderthal and Denisovan, study says

DNA reveals first-known child of Neanderthal and Denisovan, study says

Denisova 11 wasn't the only hybrid human in her family: Inverse's Sarah Sloat reports that the girl's father had at least one Neanderthal ancestor, providing evidence of yet another interspecies coupling.

"We knew from previous studies that Neandertals and Denisovans must have occasionally had children together", Viviane Slon, study author and researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said in a statement. But I never thought we would find an actual offspring of the groups'.

To determine from which hominin group Denisova 11 originated, they compared the proportions of DNA fragments that match derived genetic variants from the genome of "Altai Neanderthal" and a Denisovan genome (Denisova 3), both determined from bones discovered in Denisova Cave, as well as from a present-day African genome. A small bone fragment all we have of her, or the other members of her species for that matter.

The newly discovered DNA could be interpreted in different ways, said Anders Eriksson, evolutionary population geneticist at King's College London who wasn't involved in the study.

Once upon a time, a Neanderthal woman met a Denisovan man in what must have been a romantic Russian mountainside tens of thousands of years ago.

Both groups disappeared by about 40,000 years ago.

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The offspring of this unconventional coupling, a young girl scientists have dubbed Denisova 11, lived in modern-day Siberia, Maya Wei-Haas reports for National Geographic.

We Homo sapiens aren't the only species of human to have walked the Earth, and only recently have we lacked the company of our evolutionary siblings; the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.

The bone is thick, which means that it belonged to someone at least 13 years old.

But very little is known about the Denisovans, and when they overlapped or co-existed with Neanderthals, Professor Lambert said.

The 90,000-year-old remains - discovered in an icy cave in Siberia - are the first ever belonging to a Neanderthal hybrid.

The researchers deduced that the girl's mother was genetically closer to Neanderthals who lived in western Europe than to a Neanderthal individual who lived earlier in Denisova Cave.

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Scientists have been recovering genomes from ancient human fossils for just over a decade.

"Neanderthals and Denisovans may not have had many opportunities to meet", Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, tells Briggs. 'But when they did, they must have mated frequently - much more so than we previously thought'. DNA inherited from the mother, called mitochondrial DNA, was clearly Neanderthal, the team found. And this occurred 20,000 years later than the Neanderthals living in the cave.

The fossil could instead have come from a population with roughly an equal mix of Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry, he said.

"It makes you wonder if the Denisovans' genomes aren't simply Homo erectus [another earlier species of human, also known as Java man]", said Dr Westaway, who was not involved in the research.

"They managed to catch it in the act - it's an fantastic discovery", said Sharon Browning, a statistical geneticist at the University of Washington who was not involved in the new study. Denisovan DNA remnants are also widespread, albeit less evenly. It is the fruit of a union that says a lot about our most remote past.

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