Human ancestors interbred with Denisovans, study reports

Ancient humans interbred with Denisovans on two separate occasions.
By Joseph Scalise | Oct 01, 2018
Ancient humans likely interbred with a mysterious group known as the Denisovans on two different occasions, new researchin the journal Cellreports.

In the new study, a group of researchers from the University of Washington sequenced genomes from 5,600 individuals in Europe, Asia, America, and Oceania and then compared them to the Denisovan genome. This revealed two different periods of intermixing between modern humans and Denisovans.

The team also found that the genomes of two modern human groups with Denisovan ancestry -- those from Oceania and certain East Asian populations -- are uniquely different. That suggests the mixing occurred at completely different times. AsDenisovan ancestry is not as common in Asia as it is Oceania, researchers believe the shifts were the result of migration.

"What was known already was that Oceanian individuals, notably Papuan individuals, have significant amounts of Denisovan ancestry," explained Sharon Browning, a research professor at University of Washington, according to Perfscience."The genomes of modern Papuan individuals contain approximately 5 per cent Denisovan ancestry."

Further study of the genes revealed that the Denisovan genome is more closely related to the modern East Asian populations than to modern Papuans.

This study is important because archaeologists know very little about Denisovan ancestry. The group is one of the least studied, and the only evidence scientists have of the ancient population comes from a single set of fossils uncovered in Siberia.

The team hopes they can build on the new research and figure out more about how the Denisovans intermixed. They next plan to study more cultures throughout the world, including Asians, Native Americans, and Africans.

"The assumption is that admixing with Denisovans occurred fairly quickly after humans moved out of Africa, around 50,000 years ago, but we do not know where in terms of location," added Browning

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