Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New DNA Information From Denisova Teeth

Many news outlets are reporting on new findings from the Denisova teeth that were discovered a few years ago.  Here is what the Chicago Tribune has to write:
According to a new analysis of a huge, recently-discovered fossilized molar, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Denisovans lived for roughly 60,000 years in Asia alongside both Neanderthals, their close cousins, and more distantly related Homo sapiens - us. Their complicated genetic legacy suggests that they interbred with both species, and, possibly, with another hominid group that has yet to be discovered.

"The world at that time must have been far more complex than previously thought," Susanna Sawyer, an author of the study, told National Geographic. "Who knows what other hominids lived and what effects they had on us?"
It is taking us a bit long to wrap our brains around the fact that we are the only version of Homo on the planet now and have been for probably fifty thousand years. Prior to our ascendancy, there may well have been three or four related species—part of a syngameon—that occupied the landscape at approximately the same time and, as the researchers point out, likely interbred.  We know that archaic Homo sapiens in Africa interbred with the moderns there and that the moderns that left Africa interbred with the Neandertals and the Denisovans that they encountered.  One big happy family until we ruined the party.  More to come I am sure.

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