Child of 2 Extinct Human Relatives Found for First Time

Siberian bone fragment shows Neanderthal mixing with a Denisovan
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 23, 2018 11:42 AM CDT
Mom Was Neanderthal: DNA Mix Found in Rare Fossil
This undated photo provided by Bence Viola of the University of Toronto in August 2018 shows the valley above a cave where Denisovan fossils were found in the Altai Krai area of Russia.   (Bence Viola/Department of Anthropology - University of Toronto/Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology via AP)

Scientists say they've found the remains of a prehistoric female whose mother was a Neanderthal and whose father belonged to another extinct group of human relatives known as Denisovans, the AP reports. The 90,000-year-old bone fragment found in southern Siberia marks the first time a direct offspring of these two groups has been discovered, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. Both groups disappeared by about 40,000 years ago. Neanderthals lived in Europe and Asia, while fossils of Denisovans are known only from the cave where the fragment was found. Past genetic studies have shown interbreeding between the two groups, as well as with our own species, which left a trace in the DNA of today's people.

But the new study is the first to identify a first-generation child with Neanderthal and Denisovan parents. "It's fascinating to find direct evidence of this mixing going on," says Svante Paabo, one of the study's lead authors. Paabo says he was surprised by the discovery, given how relatively few remains of our evolutionary relatives have been found around the world. The cave near Mongolia where the bone was found contains some remains attributed to Neanderthals as well as Denisovans. But finding an actual offspring of the two groups—which are more different from each other than any two present-day human groups—seemed like a rare stroke of luck. "The fact that we stumbled across this makes you wonder if the mixing wasn't quite frequent," says Paabo. Click for the full story.

(More Neanderthals stories.)

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