Another case of early human interbreeding confirmed in Siberia

John Timmer in ars technica:

ScreenHunter_02 Dec. 22 21.03 It's been a busy year in research on recent human ancestry. Back in the spring, scientists completed a draft of the Neanderthal genome, which provided clear evidence that these now-extinct humans left some of their genes behind by interbreeding with some human ancestors. A bit earlier in the year, DNA sequencing revealed an even larger surprise: there seems to have been another population of premodern humans present in Asia that were genetically distinct from modern humans and Neanderthals. Now, the team behind both of these discoveries is back with a draft genome of this population that suggests it was genetically distinct from both humans and Neanderthals, and a single tooth that suggests it was physically distinct. And that it also interbred with the ancestors of a modern human population.

The new population was identified based on sequence from a single bone found in a cave called Denisova. Sequencing the genome of its mitochondria indicated it had branched off from the ancestor of both humans and Neanderthals roughly a million years ago, making it a relatively archaic lineage. But mitochondrial DNA is prone to rapid sequence changes as well as founder and bottleneck effects, which could exaggerate the divergence. The bone it came from didn't differ significantly from either of these human populations, meaning there was no physical indication that the Denisova remains represented a new population.

In the new paper, which will be published in Nature, the researchers have gone back and corrected both of these issues.

More here. [Thanks to Omar Ali.]

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