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Science

New Ancient Human Identified 148

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-family dept.
krou writes "Working on a finger-bone that was discovered in the Denisova Cave of Siberia's Altai mountains in 2008, Johannes Krause from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and colleagues managed to extract mitochondrial DNA. They compared it to the genetic code of modern humans and other known Neanderthals and discovered a new type of hominin that lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. Professor Chris Stringer, human origins researcher at London's Natural History Museum, 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.' The last common ancestor of the hominid (dubbed 'X-Woman'), humans and Neanderthals seems to have been about one million years ago."
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New Ancient Human Identified

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  • X-Woman (Score:1, Funny)

    That's the name of my next daughter.
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @01:14AM (#31607396) Homepage
    Yes, they definitely extracted mitochondrial DNA (that's DNA that isn't in the nucleus but is rather in the mitochondria and is only passed down by your mother). Yes, the DNA looks different enough that they're pretty sure this isn't any form of contamination from modern samples (always a worry when doing this sort of thing). However, it is far from clear that this DNA is belonged to another species. There are multiple possible other explanations which could make this not another species. The details are a bit technical, but anthropologist John Hawks has a piece on his blog laying out the basic issues- http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/neandertals/neandertal_dna/denisova-krause-2010.html [johnhawks.net]. A slightly more lay-oriented piece by Carl Zimmer (the writer for Science Times and author of the very excellent book Parasite Rex) is also worth reading: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2010/03/24/the-x-womans-fingerbone/ [discovermagazine.com]. The bottom line is that concluding that this is a new species is as of yet very premature.
    • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @02:08AM (#31607606) Journal

      I enjoyed the John Hawks analysis, and I agree that a mitochondrial sequence from a single bone is much less data than I'd like before concluding the existence of a new species.

      However, I don't agree with his main argument. Yes, the Neandertal population might have a 1 million year old divergence in their mitochondrial DNA, but that can't explain why the modern human/Neandertal divergence is only about half that. Under this hypothesis, the modern human diversity lies within the Neandertal.

      For this to work, basically a Neandertal has to wander from Europe into Africa, *and* she must be a maternal-line ancestor of Mitochondrial Eve. (Alternatively modern humans evolve in Europe from Neandertals, migrate to Africa and die out in Europe, only to return later. Basically this is the same scenario except for the subspecies of the African immigrant.)

    • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @02:38AM (#31607688) Homepage

      The summary doesn't say anything about this being a new species. The word "species" doesn't even appear.

      And in the article, the first use of the word "species" says this:

      However, for now, the researchers have steered away from describing the specimen as a new species.

      And this:

      Other experts agreed that while the Siberian specimen may be a new species, this has yet to be shown.

      I'm all for shooting down /. summaries and sensational headlines, but this appears to be right on.

      • Is there any reason not to assume that this is just an H. erectus? I don't quite understand the hype here. The timing would be about right, it was the last common ancestor of Neandertals and humans, and it was crawling all over Eurasia.

        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          Is there any reason not to assume that this is just an H. erectus?

          As the original article says,
          "Assuming an average divergence of human and chimpanzee mtDNAs of 6 million years ago, the date of the most recent common mtDNA ancestor shared by the Denisova hominin, Neanderthals and modern humans is approximately one million years ago (mean = 1,040,900 years ago; 779,300-1,313,500 years ago, 95% highest posterior density (HPD)), or twice as deep as the most recent common mtDNA ancestor of modern humans and Nea

    • by WhiteDragon (4556)

      So you're basically saying that the ancient human is ... your mom!

  • Huh? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @01:19AM (#31607408)
    Is Professor Xavier being politically correct nowadays? Being 48,000 years old is a cool super power but she's dead so I fail to see how she could help fellow mutants.
  • If only they had this persons nose. They could recreate the whole person then. Not much you can do with half a finger.

    (and if he had eaten organic rice he would still be alive now).

  • Take a picture, load it into photoshop, content aware fill, and BAM sneak peak into the past.
  • by tloh (451585) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @03:06AM (#31607770)

    It's kinda late and I'm a bit brain-dead at the moment. But the first thing that came to my mind was...... The Abominable Snow Man. What are the chances that this ends up being the smoking gun for that oh-so-elusive cryptoid that has had people arguing about hairy wild apemen since time forgotten? Personally, I think it'll realistically end up being a case of contamination or something else mondan. But with the odd chance that this turns out to be scientifically investigatable, we can hang on to the slim hope that there are other samples out there waiting to be found.

    • by Sique (173459) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @03:54AM (#31607870) Homepage

      The team was actually pondering that this may be a case of contamination. But -- which mitochondrial DNA contamination will yield a result that shows a divergence that is larger than Homo sapiens sapiens vs. Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, but not large enough for Homo sapiens sapiens vs. Pan troglodytes?

      PS: The Neanderthal is a narrow valley between the towns of Erkrath and Mettman, called so in memoriam of the Calvinist church teacher and hymn writer Joachim Neander [wikipedia.org]. I wonder what he would have to say about a human subspecies indirectly named for him.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's kinda late and I'm a bit brain-dead at the moment. But the first thing that came to my mind was...... The Abominable Snow Man. What are the chances that this ends up being the smoking gun for that oh-so-elusive cryptoid that has had people arguing about hairy wild apemen since time forgotten? Personally, I think it'll realistically end up being a case of contamination or something else mondan. But with the odd chance that this turns out to be scientifically investigatable, we can hang on to the slim hope that there are other samples out there waiting to be found.

      Not a Yeti but another group is a good candidate. They are called Almas among other names. Oddly enough the description fits the divergence nicely. They were described as tall and very hairy. The point being there's no evidence that Neanderthals were extremely hairy and were probably closer to humans in the amount of hair they had. Alma type people were described from Eastern Europe nearly to the Pacific Ocean. If this group survived up to even a few thousand years ago they could be the source of the storie

    • by glwtta (532858)
      What are the chances that this ends up being the smoking gun for that oh-so-elusive cryptoid that has had people arguing about hairy wild apemen since time forgotten?

      Well, let's put it this way: Zero.
  • The New Ancient Human was identified as:




    Cowboy Neal
  • Eventually we may find that man originated in Asia and migrated to Africa.
    • by Myopic (18616)

      We might, if we find an gigantic amount of evidence which contradicts the large amount of evidence we already have showing the opposite route. That's pretty unlikely, but hey, anything is possible.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:51AM (#31609264)

    Did the cave have a stargate in it?

  • I'm no genius, but wouldn't that mark it as a Asiatic variant of H. erectus? Like Neandertals, there's no reason to assume that this hominid was anything other than another scion of the H. erectus migrations throughout Eurasia.

  • Am I the only one who thinks it is strange to list the older age first? It seems unnatural.

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