Cave Girl’s Mom and Dad Were From Different Human Species


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DNA analysis of bone fragments indicate a girl who cohabited a cave possessed one set of chromosomes from two different hominins.

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Scientists have discovered the first ancient-human hybrid; Photo: Nature

Assessment of a bone fragment uncovered in a Siberian cave from a young female who perished 90,000 years ago has revealed she was half Denisovan and half Neanderthal.

The girl, thought to be around 13 years of age, is an exemplar of interbreeding between now-extinct human groups.

She is the first first-generation person of mixed ancestry from two divergent human groups to be discovered.

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The girl from the cave’s mother was a Neanderthal and her father was a Denisovan; Photo: Giphy

Virtually most modern non-African humans retain traces of Neanderthal DNA and various Asian populations have Denisovan DNA, validating that Homo sapiens, Denisovans and Neanderthals interbred.

As Neanderthal populations propagated eastwards they confronted Denisovans, and the cave girl, nicknamed ‘Denny’ by researchers, is the result of conjugation between a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.

Pontus Skoglund, a Francis Crick Institute population geneticist said: “To find a first-generation person of mixed ancestry from these groups is absolutely extraordinary. It’s really great science coupled with a little bit of luck.”

A fragment of one of Denny’s long bones was detected in the Siberian cave a few years ago.

Preceding tests had been able to determine sex and when she died. The most recent evaluation compared Denny’s DNA to genomes of a Denisovan and a Neanderthal.

Researchers discovered she had one set of chromosomes from each hominin.

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Man has evolved markedly over the centuries; Photo: Giphy

Denisovans, a now-extinct subspecies of archaic humans, ranged from Siberia to southeast Asia. They resided among and crossbred with the ancestors of some modern humans with about 3% to 5% of the DNA of Aboriginal Australians and Melanesians and roughly 6% in Papuans deriving from Denisovans.

The earliest fossils of Neanderthals in Europe currently are dated at 430,000 years ago and thenceforth Neanderthals enlarged into southwest and Central Asia. They died out nearly 40,000 years ago, potentially as a result of competition following the exodus of modern humans (Homo sapiens) from Africa between 40,000-60,000 years ago, although DNA analysis demonstrates hybridization between the two species.

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Aaron Granger

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