Mar
25
2010

New research points to another branch on the family tree

Painting a new picture of human evolution: A finger bone found in a cave in southern Siberia may add another species to human evolution. (Painting by Charles R. Knight, AMNH).
Painting a new picture of human evolution: A finger bone found in a cave in southern Siberia may add another species to human evolution. (Painting by Charles R. Knight, AMNH).Courtesy Mark Ryan
The bone of a single pinky finger found in a cave in southern Siberia may indicate a new branch in the human family tree. The find could show that besides Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, a third lineage of humans may have shared the ancient landscape of prehistoric Russia.

The piece of finger was found in Denisova cave located in Russia’s Altai mountains by scientists from the Russian Academy of Science. The bone was recovered from sediment layers that have also yielded signs of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and modern humans (Homo sapiens). Radiocarbon dating set the age of the layers between 48,000 and 30,000 years old.

Scientists from Germany’s Max Planck Institute and others sequenced 16,569 base pairs of the finger bone’s mitochondrial DNA genome, and the results indicate the new hominen shared a common ancestor with both neanderthals and ancient modern humans sometime around a million years ago. The research team included Michael Shunkov and Anatoli Derevianko, the two Russian archaeologists who discovered the bone in 2008. The study appears in the journal Nature.

Further sequencing of DNA from cell nucleuses will be done next, and could help pinpoint the hominen’s exact origins. If confirmed, the discovery would mean four different species of humans (the 4th would be the Indonesian Hobbit Homo floresiensis) co-existed on Earth some 40,000 years ago.

SOURCE and LINKS
Science Now story
More about human evolution at Becoming Human
Radiocarbon dating

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

cooooool! that is soooo awesome i feeel totally smart now thanks :)

posted on Wed, 08/04/2010 - 12:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How cool would it be if your own family came from that line! I want to learn more.

posted on Mon, 03/14/2011 - 3:58pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

this was cool

posted on Wed, 10/12/2011 - 2:02pm

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