DNA reveals first-known child of Neanderthal and Denisovan, study says

A 50,000-year-old bone fragment discovered in a Russian cave represents the first-known remains of a child t...

Posted: Aug 23, 2018 2:05 PM
Updated: Aug 23, 2018 2:05 PM

A 50,000-year-old bone fragment discovered in a Russian cave represents the first-known remains of a child that had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father, according to a new study. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Neanderthals and Denisovans, the closest extinct relatives of modern human, are hominins that separated from each other more than 390,000 years ago. But separation doesn't mean they didn't encounter each other.

Animals

Anthropology and archeology

Biochemistry

Children

Demographic groups

DNA

Families and children

Family members and relatives

Genetic biochemistry

Genetics

Health and medical

Humanities and social sciences

Humans and hominids

Life forms

Medical fields and specialties

Population and demographics

Science

Society

"We knew from previous studies that Neandertals and Denisovans must have occasionally had children together," Viviane Slon, study author and researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said in a statement. "But I never thought we would be so lucky as to find an actual offspring of the two groups."

The long bone, which belonged to a 13-year-old female, was discovered in 2012 in Denisova Cave. The cave, in Siberia's Altai Mountains, is where other Denisovan and Neanderthal bones have been recovered.

Researchers were able to sequence the genome of Denisova 11, who died more than 50,000 years ago. Then, they discovered that she was a first-generation Neanderthal-Denisovan offspring, with equal contributions from both.

"An interesting aspect of this genome is that it allows us to learn things about two populations -- the Neandertals from the mother's side, and the Denisovans from the father's side," study co-author Fabrizio Mafessoni of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology said in a statement.

Denisovans pose particular questions for scientists because researchers have only a few bones that even point to their existence: a finger bone, a toe bone and a couple of teeth. Fossilized DNA sequenced from those bones, recovered in Siberia, has allowed us to learn more about them. But we still don't know what these extinct hominins looked like.

Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA was sequenced completely for the first time in 2010, which led to the initial discovery that they were interbreeding with our ancestors.

Fifty thousand years ago, as modern humans moved out of Africa, they encountered Neanderthals and Denisovans, and "admixing" happened. About 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals and Denisovans were replaced by humans.

Before that, Neanderthals and Denisovans encountered each other even though they lived on opposite sides of Eurasia: Neandethals to the west and Denisovans to the east.

But pinning down exactly where it happened, and the extent of their interbreeding, has proved difficult.

The researchers were able to determine that the mother was more closely related to Neanderthals from western Europe, as opposed to a Neanderthal previously found who lived in the cave. And this occurred 20,000 years later than the Neanderthals living in the cave.

This suggests that Neanderthals were migrating back and forth across Eurasia tens of thousands of years before they disappeared. Meanwhile, the Denisovan father actually had a Neanderthal ancestor farther back in his family tree.

"So from this single genome, we are able to detect multiple instances of interactions between Neandertals and Denisovans," Benjamin Vernot, study co-author with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said in a statement.

Even with these encounters between the two groups, Neanderthals and Denisovans were able to remain genetically distinct because of their limited interactions, the researchers said.

"It is striking that we find this Neandertal/Denisovan child among the handful of ancient individuals whose genomes have been sequenced," Svante Pääbo, lead author of the study and director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said in a statement. "Neandertals and Denisovans may not have had many opportunities to meet. But when they did, they must have mated frequently -- much more so than we previously thought."

West Lafayette
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 82°
Kokomo
Few Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 74°
Rensselaer
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 73°
Fowler
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 73°
Williamsport
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 80°
Crawfordsville
Scattered Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 78°
Frankfort
Broken Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 84°
Delphi
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 78°
Monticello
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 78°
Logansport
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 80°
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51079

Reported Deaths: 2756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12019693
Lake5588248
Elkhart353959
Allen2939134
St. Joseph210669
Hamilton1691101
Cass16449
Hendricks1454100
Johnson1340118
Porter82638
Tippecanoe7709
Vanderburgh7276
Clark69544
Madison67464
LaPorte61628
Howard59858
Bartholomew59745
Kosciusko5754
Marshall5449
Noble51328
LaGrange4849
Boone48244
Jackson4783
Delaware47152
Hancock46736
Shelby45425
Floyd40644
Morgan34231
Monroe34028
Grant31826
Dubois3046
Henry30018
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27410
Dearborn25823
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Vigo2528
Warrick25029
Harrison21722
Greene19432
Miami1932
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1649
Wayne1546
Daviess15017
Perry14710
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1352
Ripley1307
Franklin1278
Gibson1202
Wabash1162
Carroll1142
Fayette1067
Whitley1066
Starke1043
Newton10010
Huntington942
Jefferson862
Wells821
Randolph794
Fulton731
Knox710
Jay700
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush613
Posey570
Spencer541
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike110
Unassigned0193

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events