A bone found in 2012 belongs to a Neanderthal girl who died at the age of 13, 90,000 years ago and her parents were two different human species!
In 2012, during the collection of remains of the Denisova cave, the team found a fragment of the bone, probably the bone was of the arm or leg of a female; who died at the age of 13 years. The bone was some 90,000 years old. Initially, the preliminary studies revealed that the bone fragment is unrecognizable as a hominin (homo-sapien-human) bone. However, this bone did not undergo further testing and evaluation; it remained unexplored for several years.
Several years down the line, Samantha Brown of the University of Oxford started sorting out the bone fragments. Moreover, she started studying the proteins in the bones’ collagen. Using this method, she identified the bone as hominin. Thereafter, a paleogeneticist, Viviane Slon, got her hands on it. She studied the mitochondrial DNA of the bone fragment which later confirmed that that the bone belonged to a hominin with a Neanderthal mother.
“This was already very exciting. It only got more exciting when we started looking at nuclear DNA. That’s when we realized something was a bit funky about this bone.”
Moreover, the paternal lineage matched Denisovans genes.
Who are Neanderthals?
Neanderthals are extinct species and closest human relative. They lived in Eurasia around 40,000 years back.
Who are Denisovans?
Denisovans are also an extinct human species, also called the cousins of or sister-group of Neanderthals. They lived across Asia. However, not much is known about them as limited data is available. Having said that, they are fairly recent as compared to Neanderthals.
So, how did the girl had parents belonging to different human species?
One word answer would be interbreeding!
With more information and more research, it would not be wrong to say that interbreeding was not rare/uncommon. With deeper digging, researchers also found out the girl’s Denisovan father’s genetic material also had traces of Neanderthal relatives.
David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard, said:
“It seemed unlikely that we would be able to catch it happening in the act—an individual that’s really the product of a first-generation hybrid.”
He also added:
“That sort of qualitatively transforms and changes our understanding of the world, and that’s really exciting.”
Could you have genetic relationship with the ancient Hominins?
This remains an unsolved puzzle at the moment. However, some researches have revealed that around 2% of DNA from most Europeans and Asians is Neanderthal!
Source: National Geographic: Ancient Girl’s Parents Were Two Different Human Species