Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Geektor's Daughter

Now don't anybody try to tell me that this is not major cool:
A previously unknown kind of human—the Denisovans—likely roamed Asia for thousands of years, probably interbreeding occasionally with humans like you and me, according to a new genetic study. ...

This "new twist" in human evolution adds substantial new evidence that different types of humans—so-called modern humans and Neanderthals, modern humans and Denisovans, and perhaps even Denisovans and Neanderthals—mated and bore offspring, experts say. ...

Taken together with a May DNA study that found Neanderthals also interbred with modern human ancestors, the Denisovan finding suggests there was much more interbreeding among different human types than previously thought, Stanford University geneticist Brenna Henn said.
That is not a position that has had a lot of support lately, although it has continuously percolated through discussions of human evolution. What makes this new DNA study, using material taken from a fossil bone of the finger of a young girl who died about 40,000 years ago, extra intriguing is that
living Pacific islanders in Papua New Guinea may be distant descendants of these prehistoric pairings.
Which, if true, would mean that prehistoric interbreeding not only occurred, it was common enough to leave present-day traces.

And Jean Auel smiles.

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