In the News
reveals history of
extinct neandertal relative
lived about 75,000 years ago
By Bruce Bower
Genetic data of unprecedented completeness have been pulled from the fossil remains of a young Stone Age woman
who lived roughly 75,000 years ago. The
information encoded in her DNA helps
illuminate the relationships among her
group—ancient Siberians known as
Denisovans — Neandertals, and humans.
The Denisovan’s genetic library suggests that she came from a small popu-
a replica of part of an ancient finger bone, resting on a modern human hand, underscores just how little fossil material scientists had to work with when they extracted a full dna sequence of the denisovans.
had their genetic contributions to
Europeans diluted as increasing numbers of Stone Age humans reached that
“We can now start to catalog essential
genetic changes that occurred after we
separated from our closest extinct relatives,” Pääbo says. Preliminary DNA
comparisons between people today and
the young female Denisovan have identified eight human-specific genes involved
in brain functions, including one linked
to language and speech development.
Despite the advance in retrieving
ancient DNA, Denisovans’ evolutionary
history is far from settled. Denisovan
fossils, which date to at least 50,000 years
ago, consist of only a finger bone and
two teeth from Siberia’s Denisova Cave.
Previous work partly reconstructed
DNA from the finger fossil and unveiled
a close genetic link between Neandertals
and Denisovans (SN: 1/15/11, p. 10).