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First ever Denisovan skull fragments discovered

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The new discovery consists of two connecting fragments from the back, left-hand side of the parietal bone, which forms the sides and roof of the skull. Together, they measure about 8 cm by 5 cm.

DNA analysis proves that the piece is Denisovan, though it's too old to date with radiocarbon techniques. Viola and colleagues have compared the fragments to the remains of modern humans and Neanderthals, according to the conference abstract, although Viola is unwilling to discuss the details of what they learned until the work is published.

"This is exciting," says Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London, UK., who wasn't involved with the work but will be presenting in the same upcoming conference session about Denisovans.

"But, of course, it is only a small fragment. It's as important in raising hopes that yet more complete material will be recovered."

Sadly, the newfound piece is not large enough to use to identify other skulls found elsewhere as Denisovan without genetic information to back the diagnosis up.



In a paper published this week in Science, a Chinese-U.S. team presents 105,000- to 125,000-year-old fossils they call “archaic Homo.” They note that the bones could be a new type of human or an eastern variant of Neandertals. But although the team avoids the word, “everyone else would wonder whether these might be Denisovans,” which are close cousins to Neandertals, says paleo­anthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London.

The new skulls “definitely” fit what you’d expect from a Denisovan, adds paleoanthropologist María Martinón-Torres of the University College London—“something with an Asian flavor but closely related to Neandertals.” But because the investigators have not extracted DNA from the skulls, “the possibility remains a speculation.”


Wu thinks those fossils and the new skulls “are a kind of unknown or new ar­chaic human that survived on in East Asia to 100,000 years ago.” Based on similari­ties to some other Asian fossils, she and her colleagues think the new crania repre­sent regional members of a population in eastern Asia who passed local traits down through the generations in what the re­searchers call regional continuity. At the same time, resemblances to both Nean­dertals and modern humans suggest that these archaic Asians mixed at least at low levels with other archaic people.

To other experts, the Denisovans fit that description: They are roughly dated to ap­proximately 100,000 to 50,000 years ago, and their DNA shows that after hundreds of thousands of years of isolation, they mixed both with Neandertals and early modern humans. “This is exactly what the DNA tells us when one tries to make sense of the Denisova discoveries,” says paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. “These Chinese fossils are in the right place at the right time, with the right features.”


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Jon the frog

It's why Bigfoot is mostly impossible... they found a lot of bones of our ancestry from species or subspecies that disappears far far ago. Bigfoot would have left traces too. 

It's awesome that they continue do find parts of our phylogeny years after years. 

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