Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Human Tree Gets a New Root

Genome of Extinct Siberian Cave-dweller Linked to Modern-day Humans

...Researchers have discovered evidence of a distinct group of "archaic" humans existing outside of Africa more than 30,000 years ago at a time when Neanderthals are thought to have dominated Europe and Asia. But genetic testing shows that members of this new group were not Neanderthals, and they interbred with the ancestors of some modern humans who are alive today...
...Another type of analysis reported by the study's authors showed Denisovans contributed 4-6 percent of their genetic material to the genomes of present-day New Guineans. "They are ancestors of people in Papua New Guinea but not of the great majority of people in Eurasia," said David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who led the research's population genetics analysis...

 OK, now this is cool.  In addition to neanderthals, who were recently shown to have contributed a small fraction of the genes of modern humans, this study finds a new group of primitive humans, co-existent with neanderthals, who contributed a larger share of their genome, although to a more limited geographic range of modern humans.  They have been dubbed the "Denisovans" from the Denisova cave in Siberia where the fossils were found.

Will they get their own series of Geico commercials?

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