Humans and Neanderthals related to yet another group

5 September 2012

CNN Blog – by author Elizabeth Landau, 30th of August 2012

Bournemouth University academic John Stewart has been featured in blog posts explaining an exciting new archaeological discovery.

From a finger bone and two teeth, scientists have reconstructed the existence of a whole population of extinct human relatives called Denisovans. The findings, published this week in the journal Science, deliver a wealth of insight about ancient people who lived on the Earth tens of thousands of years ago.

From the small discovery in a cave in southern Siberia, scientists have been able to provide insight into these ancient people and for the first time. They have done this by reconstructing the Denisovan genes using the bone fragments found, with an accuracy almost as high as the genome of a person alive today. This means scientists can learn about as much genetically about these ancient humans as they could about a person living today.

In the report on a CNN blog website John Stewart from Bournemouth University, gives one explanation to why Europeans have less Neanderthal DNA than eastern populations, “It could be that there were two separate gene flows into modern humans, or that there was a separate group of people who came from Africa into Europe but not Asia.”

The report on the discovery also shows that some people today share genes with the Denisovans. By sequencing single strands of the DNA, researchers confirmed that interbreeding with humans must have occurred, and that Denisovans are related to Neanderthals.

Even though Neanderthals mostly lived in Europe, people in eastern parts of Eurasia and Native Americans have more Neanderthal material than modern-day Europeans, said study co-author David Reich of Harvard University.

The study reports several other findings. For more information you can also read the CNN Lightyears blog and IBSYS post.

By Sofia Eriksson

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