DNA reveals first-known child of Neanderthal and Denisovan, study says

DNA reveals first-known child of Neanderthal and Denisovan, study says

The DNA of this girl - Denisova 11 - also suggests that there was some quite significant movement of Neanderthal groups between Western Europe and the East. Analysis of her DNA found that rather than being more closely related to a Neanderthal who lived in her home cave sometime prior to her birth, she instead showed more connections to those recovered in Western Europe.

New analysis of a bone fragment from a Siberian cave has suggested that two very distinct groups of humans did in fact interbreed - and a few times.

"But we didn't even hope that we will be able to detect a direct descendant of these two groups", says Vivian Elephant, a researcher from the Institute of evolutionary anthropology of max Planck in Leipzig.

But finding an actual offspring of the two groups - which are more different from each other than any two present-day human groups - seemed like a rare stroke of luck, Mr Paabo said.

Palaeogeneticists Viviane Slon and Svante Paabo at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology carried out genome analysis on a bone taken from the Denisova cave in the Altai Mountains of Russian Federation.

The 90,000-year-old bone fragment came from a female whose mother was Neanderthal, according to an analysis of DNA discovered inside it.

It is possible they simply did not have much opportunity to mate because they lived in small groups spread out across a vast landscape, Paabo suggested.

We nearly caught them during the act, joked the scientist Svante, one of the authors of the study, in an interview with Nature.

Ninety thousand years ago, in a remote cave in cold Siberia, a very special baby was born.

Tens of thousands of years after Denisova's untimely death, one of her bone fragments has provided the first conclusive evidence of early human interbreeding.

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Scientists confirmed Denny came from two separate hominins - and not two hybrids - by looking at where the genomes between Neanderthals and Denisovans differ.

Still, this scant evidence is enough to show that Denisovans and Neanderthals split from a common ancestor roughly 390,000 years ago, Wei-Haas writes, and to point toward both species' eventual decline around 40,000 years ago. Another tooth was discovered in 2010 belonging to a fourth Denisovan.

The most recent analysis compared Denny's DNA to genomes of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan.

Slon extracted mitochondrial DNA, which contains distinct genes passed on by one's mother, from the sample and found that it contained genetic material similar to that seen in Neanderthals.

The Denisovans are more mysterious.

As Neanderthal populations spread eastwards they encountered Denisovans, and the girl in the cave, nicknamed Denny by researchers, is the result of mating between a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.

It is also possible that hybrids suffered from reproductive disorders, having fewer children than humans without mixed DNA.

About two percent of DNA in non-Africans across the globe today originate with Neanderthals, earlier studies have shown.

While we've known for a long time the two groups intermingled from traces of their DNA in modern humans, this is the first direct evidence of their dalliances. They were our closest extinct human relatives and disappeared about 40,000 years ago.

Previously it was thought that modern humans are descended from a single population of ancestors.

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