[T]ens of thousands of years ago, modern humans encountered Denisovans – and had sex with them. It is a startling discovery that raises many basic questions. Just who were the Denisovans? What did they look like? And what were their relations with the Neanderthals, their closest evolutionary cousins? Did they have tools and art like the Neanderthals?
At present, researchers have few answers to these questions, such is the paucity of the Denisovan fossil record. But a new project, Finder – Fossil Fingerprinting and Identification of New Denisovan Remains from Pleistocene Asia – [aims to put that right.]
[A] sample was taken to Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, whose team had sequenced the first Denisovan genome in 2010. Initial analysis showed that the bone was more than 50,000 years old and from a person who had been 13 or older when they died.
Then the Leipzig team – led by Pääbo’s student Viviane Slon – began more detailed genetic analysis and made a startling discovery. Exactly half the sample consisted of Neanderthal DNA. The other half was made up of Denisovan DNA.
[The sample was from] a hybrid daughter of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. She was nicknamed Denny. “If you had asked me beforehand, I would have said we will never find this, it is like finding a needle in a haystack,” Pääbo told Nature.
Read full, original post: Meet Denny, the ancient mixed-heritage mystery girl