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Astonishing case of only known individual whose parents were two different species

Astonishing case of only known individual whose parents were two different species

Scientists examined fragments of teeth and bones

An ancient child might just be the only person whose parents were from a different species.

Yes, you read that right.

The story of the Siberian girl stems from the Paleolithic ages as scientists have attempted to unearthed some important theories.

Thankfully, a research project team from FINDER (Fossil Fingerprinting and Identification of New Denisovan Remains from Pleistocene Asia) has shed some light on the largely unknown species.

In 2010, scientists who visited the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia discovered tiny fragments of bone and teeth belonging to the Denisovans, who lived in the Lower and Middle Paleolithic ages.

(John Bavaro)
(John Bavaro)

Almost all of the samples were unidentifiable because hyenas and other animals had chewed through them.

Project leader Katerina Douka, of the Max Planck Institute in Jena, Germany and a visitor at Oxford University, said in 2018: “We aim to find out where they lived, when they came into contact with modern humans – and why they went extinct.”

After examining the thousands of bones, one of the samples appeared to belong to a human species, but it needed further inspection.

It was sent to Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig for more detailed analysis.

They discovered that the bone belonged to a girl who was 13 years or older at death.

What was interesting though is that the sample contained Neanderthal DNA, and the other half Denisovan DNA.

The team's hypothesis came to life as it was determined that the 90,000-year-old bones belonged to a hybrid daughter of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father, as they nicknamed the girl Denny.

“If you had asked me beforehand, I would have said we will never find this, it is like finding a needle in a haystack,” Pääbo said.

(Thomas Higham/University of Oxford)
(Thomas Higham/University of Oxford)

Artist John Bavaro shared his interpretation of Denny, explaining on his website: "By taking a genome analysis from the specimen’s mitochondrial DNA on a single bone fragment recovered from the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Russia, palaeo-geneticists Viviane Slon and Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary found that she had 40 percent Denisovan genes from her dad and 40 percent Neanderthal genes from her mom."

The team’s research was published in the journal Nature in August 2018, explaining: “Neanderthals and Denisovans are extinct groups of hominins that separated from each other more than 390,000 years ago.”

“The father, whose genome bears traces of Neanderthal ancestry, came from a population related to a later Denisovan found in the cave.

“The mother came from a population more closely related to Neanderthals who lived later in Europe than to an earlier Neanderthal found in Denisova Cave, suggesting that migrations of Neanderthals between eastern and western Eurasia occurred sometime after 120,000 years ago.

“The finding of a first-generation Neanderthal–Denisovan offspring among the small number of archaic specimens sequenced to date suggests that mixing between Late Pleistocene hominin groups was common when they met.”

Featured Image Credit: Thomas Higham/University of Oxford/John Bavaro

Topics: Science, World News