This season’s DISCOVER Lecture Series is graciously brought to you by Family Tree DNA
The letters DNA seem to stand for “Daily New Advances.” We’re positively pelted with new finds, new information, new revelations about our ancestors and ourselves, thanks to the double helix. Humans and Neanderthals interbred! My sister and I don’t have the same father! Jewish priesthood has been uninterrupted for 3200 years. Modern Tibetans have Denisovan genes! The “story of us” is being rewritten from one day to the next.
And now, we’ve found evidence of the first individual hybrid human. In the same Siberian cave where Denisovans were first found, scientists recovered a bone fragment that came from the at least teen-aged daughter of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. In the human family tree, Neanderthal and Denisovans split some 400,000 years ago; we knew that both species had inhabited that cave, but this hybrid girl proved that they had lived there at the same time some 50,000 years ago. And to find evidence of interbreeding in one of the very few DNA samples we have from this period suggests that cross-species mating was not rare, but common.
In fact, thanks largely to the DNA in this one bone fragment, we believe that modern humans, Denisovans, and Neanderthals interbred and may have lived together—in multiple places and on different occasions over many tens of thousands of years.
There are more than 2,000 bone fragments from the Denisova cave that are still unprocessed. Be prepared for more Daily New Advances!
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