30 March 2010, 14:08

New hominid species found

New hominid species found

The DNA analysis of the stone-age human remains from the Denisov cave in Siberia shows they belonged to a hitherto unknown hominid species. The sensational finding was called the "Denisov Man" by the name of the cave in the Altai region in southern Siberia where archeologists unearthed a fossil finger phalanx between 48,000-30,000 years old.

The DNA analysis of the stone-age human remains from the Denisov cave in Siberia shows they belonged to a hitherto unknown hominid species. The sensational finding was called the "Denisov Man" by the name of the cave in the Altai region in southern Siberia where archeologists unearthed a fossil finger phalanx between 48,000-30,000 years old. For a team of Russian and German researchers at the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Siberia and at the Max Plank Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, the tiny bone provided a sufficient amount of DNA for a molecular test:

"If a bone is well-preserved, even a fraction will be enough to obtain results, the Siberian researcher Mikhail Shonkov told the Voice of Russia. The test showed that the structure of the mitochondrial DNA differs from the genetic code of modern humans and Neanderthals. This led us to conclude that there existed a separate species of humans".

German specialists have traced a 50% percent dissimilarity between the mitochondrial DNA of the "Denisov Man" and that of the Homo Sapiens and the Neanderthal. The new species probably originated in Africa. Hypothetically, there were three hominid branches inhabiting the Altai region: the Homo Sapiens, the Neanderthal and the "Denisov Man", which confirms a modern theory that the evolution of early man was far more sophisticated than previously assumed. Mikhail Shonkov:

"Some 20 or 30 years ago, it was thought that the evolution of humans had proceeded in a gradual and consistent manner from the Australopithecus to the Pithecanthropus and then to the Neanderthal, the supposed forefather of the Homo Sapiens. But about 15-20 years ago, evidence emerged suggesting that Neanderthals were not our ancestors but were in fact a dead-end species. If our hypothesis is confirmed, than the old linear model of human evolution appears to be wrong. The signs are that the "Denisov Man" was also a dead-end species. It inhabited the Altai for quite a long period and left behind a fairly developed culture compared to the one that existed in Europe and the Middle East at the time".  

A full molecular DNA test of the "Denisov man" remains will take two to three years to complete.

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