Ancient humans, dubbed 'Denisovans', interbred with us

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President Camacho
BBC: Ancient humans, dubbed 'Denisovans', interbred with us

Professor Chris Stringer: "It's nothing short of sensational - we didn't know know how ancient people in China related to these other humans"

Scientists say an entirely separate type of human identified from bones in Siberia co-existed and interbred with our own species. The ancient humans have been dubbed "Denisovans" after the caves in Siberia where their remains were found. There is also evidence that this population was widespread in Eurasia.

A study in Nature journal shows that Denisovans co-existed with Neanderthals and interbred with our species - perhaps around 50,000 years ago.

An international group of researchers sequenced a complete genome from one of the ancient hominins (human-like creatures), based on nuclear DNA extracted from a finger bone.

According to the researchers, this provides confirmation there were at least four distinct types of human in existence when anatomically modern humans ( Homo sapiens sapiens ) first left their African homeland.

Along with modern humans, scientists knew about the Neanderthals and a dwarf human species found on the Indonesian island of Flores nicknamed "The Hobbit". To this list, experts must now add the Denisovans.

The implications of the finding have been described by Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London as "nothing short of sensational".

Scientists were able to analyse DNA from a tooth and from a finger bone excavated in the Denisova cave in southern Siberia. The individuals belong to a genetically distinct group of humans that were distantly related to Neanderthals but even more distantly related to us.
The finding adds weight to the theory that a different kind of human could have existed in Eurasia at the same time as our species.
Researchers have had enigmatic fossil evidence to support this view but now they have some firm evidence from the genetic study carried out by Professor Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany.

"A species of early human living in Europe evolved," according to Professor Paabo. "There was a western form that was the Neanderthal and an eastern form, the Denisovans."

The study shows that Denisovans interbred with the ancestors of the present day people of the Melanesian region north and north-east of Australia. Melanesian DNA comprises between 4% and 6% Denisovan DNA.

David Reich from the Harvard Medical School, who worked with Svante Paabo on the study, says that the fact that Denisovan genes ended up so far south suggests they were widespread across Eurasia: "These populations must have been spread across thousands and thousands of miles," he told BBC News.

One mystery is why the Denisovan genes are unique in modern Melanesians and are not found in other Eurasian groups that have so far been sampled.

DNA from a tooth (pictured) and a finger bone show the Denisovans were a distinct group

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President Camacho

I remember in Anthropology 101 several years ago the professor was excited about these Denisovans, whose presence was only recently discovered and of whom little was known.

Niccolo and Donkey

I imagine that this is the news item that Steve Sailer alluded to yesterday. Svante Paabo does incredible work.

President Camacho
I think we'll find more and more that the Gobi Desert/Taklamakan/Siberian region is the key for human anthropology.... only these places are dry enough and cool enough to preserve such finds for many millenia. Like the Tocharian mummies, for example.

I'm waiting for anthro-archaeologists to explain modern races as the result of hybridizations between a common expansionary subspecies and pockets of pre-human hominina. It's clear that's what they're trying to get around to, but perhaps people aren't ready to hear that Beringids, Europids, Australids, etc derive their phenotypical differences from separate populations of apemen. In East Asia the bone collectors are very eager to say that homo erectus skulls from their region bear physical similarities in skeletal, cranial, and dental features to the modern inhabitants that they don't to other populations.

Niccolo and Donkey

This throws up the question as to how many other humans were around that have disappeared, and how many other races of our humans have already disappeared.

Niccolo and Donkey
The view from the Denisova Cave, Altai Mountains, in southern Siberia

Evolutionary tree: Researchers have concluded that the unknown hominins had a common ancestor with modern humans and Neanderthals -- dating back about a million years. This is about twice as old as a known common ancestor shared by modern humans and Neanderthals. The fossil evidence also suggests that the Denisova hominin may have lived parallel to Neanderthals and modern humans.
In this vein is this at all accurate:

Mongoloid: Denisovan, Homo Erectus::
Bantu:Homo Naledi::
Australoid:Homo Floresiensis