Genome of extinct Siberian human sheds new light on modern human origins

December 22, 2010

BOSTON, Mass. (December 22, 2010) -- The sequencing of the nuclear genome from an ancient finger bone found in a Siberian cave shows that the cave dwellers were neither Neandertals nor modern humans.

An international team of researchers led by Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) has sequenced the nuclear genome from a finger bone of an extinct hominin that is at least 30,000 years old and was excavated by archaeologists from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Denisova Cave in southern Siberia, Russia, in 2008. A team at Harvard Medical School led the population-genetics analysis.

These findings are published in the December 23 issue of Nature.

Earlier this year Svante Pääbo and his colleagues showed that the mitochondrial DNA from the finger bone displayed an unusual sequence suggesting that it came from an unknown ancient hominin form. Now, using techniques the researchers developed to sequence the Neandertal genome earlier this year, they have sequenced the nuclear genome from the bone.

The researchers found that the individual was female and came from a group of hominins that shared an ancient origin with Neandertals, but subsequently diverged. They call this group of hominins Denisovans. Unlike Neandertals, Denisovans did not contribute genes to all present-day Eurasians. However, Denisovans share an elevated number of genetic variants with modern-day Papua New Guinean populations, suggesting that there was interbreeding between Denisovans and the ancestors of Melanesians.

In addition, a Denisovan tooth found in the same cave shows a morphology that is distinct from Neandertals and modern humans and resembles much older hominin forms. Bence Viola, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology comments, "The tooth is just amazing. It allows us to connect the morphological and genetic information."

David Reich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who led the population genetic analysis, says, "The fact that Denisovans were discovered in Southern Siberia but contributed genetic material to modern human populations from New Guinea suggests that Denisovans may have been widespread in Asia during the Late Pleistocene."

According to Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, "In combination with the Neandertal genome sequence, the Denisovan genome suggests a complex picture of genetic interactions between our ancestors and different ancient hominin groups."
-end-
This research was funded by the Max Planck Society and the Krekeler Foundation (Germany), the National Institutes of Health (USA) and the National Science Foundation (USA).

Harvard Medical School

Related Modern Humans Articles from Brightsurf:

Paleogenomics -- the prehistory of modern dogs
An international team of scientists has used ancient DNA samples to elucidate the population history of dogs.

Modern humans took detours on their way to Europe
Climate conditions shaped the geography of settlement by Homo sapiens in the Levant 43,000 years ago / findings of Collaborative Research Centre 806 'Our Way to Europe' published in 'PLOS ONE'

Studying the Neandertal DNA found in modern humans using stem cells and organoids
Protocols that allow the transformation of human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines into organoids have changed the way scientists can study developmental processes and enable them to decipher the interplay between genes and tissue formation, particularly for organs where primary tissue is not available.

ADHD: genomic analysis in samples of Neanderthals and modern humans
The frequency of genetic variants associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has decreased progressively in the evolutionary human lineage from the Palaeolithic to nowadays, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Modern humans, Neanderthals share a tangled genetic history, study affirms
A new study reinforces the concept that Neanderthal DNA has been woven into the modern human genome on multiple occasions as our ancestors met Neanderthals time and again in different parts of the world.

Europe's Neanderthals relied on the sea as much as early modern humans
The first significant evidence of marine resource use among Europe's Neanderthals is detailed in a new report, demonstrating a level of marine adaptation previously only seen in their contemporary modern humans living in southern Africa.

Infectious disease defenses among ancient hominid contributions to adaptation of modern humans
In a new study published in the advanced online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution, scientists Alexandre Gouy and Laurent Excoffier have developed new computational tools to better analyze human genome datasets, and found more evidence of a legacy of ancient hominid adaptation, particularly to help fight off infectious diseases like malaria.

Early modern humans cooked starchy food in South Africa, 170,000 years ago
The inhabitants of the Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains on the Kwazulu-Natal/eSwatini border were cooking starchy plants 170,000 years ago.

Researchers determine age for last known settlement by a direct ancestor to modern humans
An international team of researchers has determined the age of the last known settlement of the species Homo erectus, one of modern humans' direct ancestors.

The homeland of modern humans
A landmark study pinpoints the birthplace of modern humans in southern Africa and suggests how past climate shifts drove their first migration.

Read More: Modern Humans News and Modern Humans Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.