Sunday, July 30, 2017

DNA data offer evidence of unknown extinct human relative

Geneticists report that a region in the South Pacific known as Melanesia, contains human residents who may carry genetic evidence of a previously unknown extinct hominid species. Ryan Bohlender, a geneticist at the University of Texas Cancer Center, believes that the species isn’t Neandertal or Denisovan, but a different hominid group. The unknown group of hominids seems to be from a third branch of the hominid family tree that produced Neandertals and Denisovans. Even though there are no physical remnants of archaic human relatives the ancestry has been preserved in human DNA.

Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, examined DNA from 83 aboriginal Australians and 25 from Native Papua New Guinea residents. The researchers found genetically distinct DNA that is like the Denisovan DNA, but quite possibly from another hominid.  Very little is known about the genetic makeup of extinct groups, so it’s difficult to distinguish if it’s from an undiscovered species or not. Denisovan remains have only been found in one single cave in Siberia. It’s possible that the Denisovans group could’ve been separated long enough that they looked different from each other. It is also possible that they weren’t very genetically diverse, and the ancestor could be another species. Very little is known as of now, but in the future if a physical remnant of this other species is found, it would be ground breaking.

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