Once upon a time, 50,000 years ago, there was one neandertal and a Denisovan they had a daughter … A small piece of bones revealed that you were two types of people's line, now extinct, they reproduced.
"This is the first time a direct descendant of these two groups has been identified," Viviane Slon of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told the AFP, co-author of the study published on Wednesday. .
Denisovans and Neanderthals were separated 400,000 – 500,000 years ago and became two different types of the Homo genus.
The Neanderthals disappeared about 40,000 years ago. The exact reason is unknown. the denisovamens They have also disappeared, but you do not know when.
But DNA testing showed that both have left a part of their inheritance to Homo Sapiens.
Asian and Amerindian populations share less than 1% of their DNA with the Denisovans and the aborigines of Australia or Papua & # 39; s of New Guinea to 5%.
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Likewise, all modern humans, except Africans, have left about 2% DNA in their genome by the Neanderthals, showing that crosses between these species could have been produced in the distant past.
The existence of a descendant of these two species was revealed after the discovery of a 1.5 centimeter bone, so small that scientists at first glance could not see whether it was a hominid or an animal.
Discovered in 2012 in a cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia, near the current border between Russia and Mongolia, "Denny", as the researchers called it, belonged to a woman of at least 13 years old, who existed about 50,000 years ago.
The cave where "Denny" died was already famous because fossils of Denisova Man were found there for the first time. They were fragments of a auricular phalanx belonging to a girl of about seven years, who demonstrated the existence of this cousin of Homo sapiens.
When analyzing "Denny", the geneticists managed to distinguish the chromosomes that the young girl had inherited from her father and that she inherited from her mother. For them there is no doubt: his mother was a Neanderthal man and his father a Denisovan.
"At first I thought there was an error in the tests," admits Svante Pääbo, a researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and co-author of the study published in the journal Nature.
When they left Africa, the Neanderthals spread throughout Europe and West Asia, while the Denisovans went to East Asia.
"Possibly the Neanderthals and the denisovamens They did not see each other often. But when it happened, everything indicates that they were not biased with each other. "says Svante Pääbo, the scientist who first identified Denisova Man.
"They often reproduced, much more than we thought, otherwise we would not have been so lucky," he adds.