The remains of a little finger discovered in a cave in the mountains of southern Siberia belong to a previously unknown human ancestor, scientists said on Wednesday.
The finding suggests an undocumented human species lived alongside Neanderthals and early modern humans in parts of Asia as recently as 30,000 years ago. If confirmed, it would be the first time a new human ancestor has been identified since the discovery of Homo floresiensis, the diminutive “hobbits” that lived on the Indonesian island of Flores until 13,000 years ago.
Fragments of the finger bone were recovered from Denisova cave in the Altai mountain range that straddles Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. The cave was occupied by humans for 125,000 years and a variety of stone tools and bones have been recovered.
The size of the bone has led scientists to believe it came from a child, aged between five and seven, though they are unable to say whether it was male or female.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, ran genetic tests on the bone fragments and were stunned to find it did not match the DNA profile of Neanderthals or early modern humans.
Johannes Krause sequenced DNA from mitochondria, the sub-cellular bodies that carry genetic material passed down only the maternal line. Because the DNA came from the mother, they called the creature “X-woman.”
“It really looked like something I had never seen before. It was a sequence which is similar in some ways to humans, but still quite distinct,” Krause said.
It is the first time a new type of human has been identified from DNA alone.
By comparing the DNA with sequences from Neanderthals and modern humans, Krause’s team concluded modern humans shared a common ancestor with the creature a million years ago. Humans and Neanderthals diverged from an ancestor that lived 500,000 years ago.
When Krause saw the results of the genetic test, he called project leader Svante Paabo.
“It was absolutely amazing, I didn’t believe him. I thought he was pulling my leg,” Paabo said.
The bone fragments were recovered from a layer of rock in the cave dated to between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Krause’s team is now analyzing DNA from the nuclei of cells in the finger fragments in the hope of locating the species in the human family tree. The tests should also indicate whether there was any interbreeding between the new species, Neanderthals and modern humans.
“There were at least three different forms of humans in the area between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago, and there were also the ‘hobbits’ in Indonesia, so the picture of what was around in human form in the late Pleistocene gets a lot more complex and a lot more interesting,” Paabo said.
Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said: “This new DNA work provides an entirely new way of looking at the still poorly understood evolution of humans in central and eastern Asia.”
SAFETY RISK: The government is working to categorize countries based on their COVID-19 cases and prevention efforts, which would determine quarantine periods The government plans to rank countries based on their COVID-19 risks to determine how to treat tourists and other travelers from those nations once Taiwan reopens its borders, but it is still working out the categories, a top health official told lawmakers yesterday. “We would divide countries around the world into several categories. One category would comprise those countries with very few confirmed COVID-19 cases, such as New Zealand and Palau. Travelers from the countries in this category would only need to practice self-health management,” Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) told a Legislative Yuan seminar hosted by
CASH BOOST: Foreign spouses with residency permits are also eligible for the coupons, which can be bought at post offices or linked to digital payment options Stimulus coupons for Taiwanese and foreign spouses with residency permits can be ordered starting on July 1 and can be used from July 15 to Dec. 31, the Executive Yuan said yesterday. Aimed at boosting domestic spending, the coupons worth NT$3,000 (US$100.04) are to cost NT$1,000. “For our consumers, this is a very good deal as they get three times as much value for their money,” Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a news conference in Taipei. While the coupons are to have a wide range of uses, including at department stores, restaurants, book stores, night markets, beauty and hair salons, hotels, and to
SECURITY CONCERNS: The Telecom Technology Center ran black-box tests for the Executive Yuan on devices and software from Chinese, US and South Korean firms Network devices from several Chinese manufacturers are insecure and allow personal information to be leaked, testing commissioned by the Executive Yuan has shown. A variety of devices and software, including apps, from Chinese, US and South Korean manufacturers that are used by government agencies at the central and local level were subjected to black-box testing — in which the functionality of an application is examined without knowing about its internal structure, an information-security official said yesterday on condition of anonymity. The Telecom Technology Center conducted the tests, which simulated cyberattacks, to determine their resilience to the attacks, the official said. The center
RELATIONSHIP ‘TERMINATED’: US Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the president’s action was ‘an act of extraordinary senselessness,’ a tone Chinese media echoed US President Donald Trump on Friday announced that Washington would withdraw funding from the WHO, end Hong Kong’s special trade status and suspend visas of Chinese graduate students suspected of conducting research on behalf of their government. Trump said in a White House announcement that Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the organization to mislead the public about the outbreak. “We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act,” he said. “Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be