Denisovan Genome Decoded
In 2010, Svante Pääbo and his colleagues presented a draft version of the genome from a small fragment of a human finger bone discovered in Denisova Cave in southern Siberia. The DNA sequences showed that this individual came from a previously unknown group of extinct humans that have become known as Denisovans. Together with their sister group the Neandertals, Denisovans are the closest extinct relatives of currently living humans. Until recently, most scientists thought that there were only two species of humans (i.e., modern humans and Neanderthals) living in Eurasia in the Upper Palaeolithic (50 – 10 thousand years ago). However, over the past decade several finds have indicated that there were several more. Svante Paabo and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Evolutionary Anthropology have revealed further proof of this fact with genetics. They sequenced the genome from the bones of an individual that had been found in Denisova Cave in southern Siberia. The results indicated that the individual was not a modern human or a Neanderthal. The new species has been named Denisovans. Together with Neanderthals, Denisovans are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans. It is likely that all three species knew of each others existence and may have even lived together in what is today Siberia. Future genomic comparative studies should help scientists uncover important genetic differences that contributed to the development of modern human culture and technology. “The genome is of very high quality”, says Matthias Meyer, who developed the techniques that made this technical feat possible. “We cover all non-repetitive DNA sequences in the Denisovan genome so many times that it has fewer errors than most genomes from present-day humans that have been determined to date”. The genome represents the first high-coverage, complete genome sequence of an archaic human group - a leap in the study of extinct forms of humans....
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