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Offspring of Neanderthal and Denisovan identified for first time

Discovery suggests that distinct ancient human species may have mingled and interbred happily

Scientists have little idea what the Denisovans looked like, but some hints have emerged. A handful of Denisovan teeth recovered from the cave are much larger than those of Neanderthals, and work that will be published soon finds that a piece of Denisovan skull is thick compared with other ancient humans. “They seem to have been very large and robust, even compared to Neanderthals,” said Pääbo. “They were probably pretty impressive.”

Sharon Browning, who studies populations of ancient humans at the University of Washington, said the finding was “very intriguing.”

“Finding remains from a first generation admixed individual should be a very small probability occurrence, unless perhaps interbreeding between Neanderthals and Denisovans was not uncommon at a small number of locations, such as the Denisova cave, where the groups’ ranges overlapped,” she said.

The researchers are now analysing sediment from the Denisova cave for traces of DNA that will clarify when different groups of humans sheltered in the refuge. Somewhere in the cave there might be more pieces of bone that reveal further details of the girl’s story. “Maybe we will find the parents one day,” said Pääbo.

Article originally posted by theguardian.

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