A tiny skeleton long rumored to be some kind of alien-human hybrid is actually the body of a stillborn baby girl, researchers say—and the finding has caused outrage in Chile, where the body was dug up near an abandoned Catholic church in 2003. Chilean scientists say it appears that the body was illegally exhumed and smuggled out of the country, making the resulting research deeply unethical, the New York Times reports. The body of the girl, who suffered from severe genetic mutations and bone deformities, ended up in the private collection of Barcelona entrepreneur Ramon Navia-Osorio, who heads an organization for UFO research. Samples were provided to American researchers who reconstructed the genome of the girl, who'd been nicknamed Ata.
Chilean science groups have urged the Genome Research journal to send a message on ethics by retracting the Ata study on the grounds that it's based on the results of grave robbing. "Could you imagine the same study carried out using the corpse of someone's miscarried baby in Europe or America?" the Chilean Society of Biological Anthropology said in a statement. The American researchers are defending the study, saying it has countered claims the skeleton was that of an alien, though they agree the body should be treated with respect. "We now know that it's a child," Stanford University professor of microbiology and immunology Garry Nolan tells the San Jose Mercury News. "I think it should be returned to the country of origin and buried according to the customs of the local people." (Read more mummy stories.)