Santa Cruz, CA (Scicasts) – According to a report from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), a 30,000-year-old finger bone found in a cave in southern Siberia came from a young girl who was neither an early modern human nor a Neanderthal, but belonged to a previously unknown group of human relatives who may have lived throughout much of Asia during the late Pleistocene epoch.
Although the fossil evidence consists of just a bone fragment and one tooth, DNA extracted from the bone has yielded a draft genome sequence, enabling scientists to reach some startling conclusions about this extinct branch of the human family tree, called "Denisovans" after the cave where the fossils were found.
The findings are reported in the December 23 issue of Nature by an international team of scientists, including many of the same researchers who earlier this year published the Neanderthal genome. Coauthor Richard Green of the UCSC, played a lead role in the analysis of the genome sequence data, for which a special portal was designed on the UCSC Genome Browser. The team was led by Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.