Friday, August 12, 2011
Stone Age toe could redraw human family tree
ON THE western fringes of Siberia, the Stone Age Denisova cave has surrendered precious treasure: a toe bone that could shed light on early humans' promiscuous relations with their hominin cousins.
New Scientist has learned that the bone is now in the care of Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who revealed the first genetic evidence of interbreeding between ancient humans and other hominins (New Scientist, 30 July, p 34).
There are tantalising hints that the find strengthens the case for a third major group of hominins circulating in Eurasia at the same time as early humans and the Neanderthals. It might possibly even prove all three groups were interbreeding (see diagram).
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