August 31, 2012

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS SPECIES:

New DNA Analysis Shows Ancient Humans Interbred with Denisovan  (Katherine Harmon, 8/30/12, Scientific American)

"Denisova is a big surprise," says John Hawks, a biological anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not involved in the new research. On its own, a simple finger bone in a cave would have been assumed to belong to a human, Neandertal or other hominin. But when researchers first sequenced a small section of DNA in 2010--a section that covered about 1.9 percent of the genome--they were able to tell that the specimen was neither. "It was the first time a new group of distinct humans was discovered" via genetic analysis rather than by anatomical description, said Svante Pääbo, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute (M.P.I.) for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, in a conference call with reporters.

Now Pääbo and his colleagues have devised a new method of genetic analysis that allowed them to reconstruct the entire Denisovan genome with nearly all of the genome sequenced approximately 30 times over akin to what we can do for modern humans. Within this genome, researchers have found clues into not only this group of mysterious hominins, but also our own evolutionary past. Denisovans appear to have been more closely related to Neandertals than to humans, but the evidence also suggests that Denisovans and humans interbred. 

Posted by at August 31, 2012 5:05 AM
  

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