A mysterious human species called the Denisovans apparently interbred with human beings in two separate regions thousands of years ago.
A newly discovered and little known species of human may have interbred with modern humans thousands of years ago, an extraordinary finding that could change our understanding of human history. The Denisovans, which went extinct long ago, were discovered thanks to a pinky bone found in a cave in Siberia back in 2010 that was dated back to 41,000 years ago.
An analysis of both the pinky bone and a molar found elsewhere suggests that humans and Denisovans interbred in both Siberia and Southeast Asia. Scientists originally thought the bones belonged to Neanderthals, but an analysis of the DNA showed that it was genetically distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans.
Scientists think that the Denisovans and the Neanderthals had common origins. Their DNA is still alive today, most abundantly in Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians, who reportedly have up to 3 to 5 percent of their DNA originating from Denisovans.
“What is known about Denisovan ancestry comes from a single set of archaic human fossils found in the Altai mountains in Siberia,” reads a Cell Press statement. “That individual’s genome was published in 2010, and other researchers quickly identified segments of Denisovan ancestry in several modern-day populations, most significantly with individuals from Oceania but also in East and South Asians. … Going forward, the researchers plan on studying more Asian populations and others throughout the world, including Native Americans and Africans.”