Evolutionary anthropologists from the Max Planck Institute (MPI) in Leipzig Germany obtained sediments in Denisova Cave, found in Siberia's Altai mountains, reported the Daily Mail. The DNA found in the samples indicates that there was interbreeding between these early humans, and may be a clue to the origins of homo sapiens.
It's all in the family
Denisovans are a prehistoric branch of humans. Denisova cave gave its name to the obscure pre-humans there. They were discovered in 2008, living in Asia what was know as the early paleolithic or early stone age.
More remains were discovered in the cave, Neanderthal remnants, that were found along with Denisovans. One surprise is a bone fragment that carried the genetic tags of the two sub-species, which suggests that both species cohabited and produced hybrid offspring. The offspring had a Denisovan father and Neanderthal mother that opened up a new chapter in human history, cited Granthshala.
The discovery of eight bone and teeth remains trapped in 300,000-year-old sediments inside the cave is a lucky find. But from those scant artifacts found in the cave, some details in the caves revealed how the inhabitants interacted, used their tools, made decorative ornaments, and items that characterize how early humans lived.
Based on the DNA analysis, the researchers checked what times the human sub-species have lived in the cave. Dating placed Denisovans as the first occupants, about 250,000 years before other proto-humans utilized the cave. If the Denisovans and Neanderthals were cohabiting in caves, there is a good chance for birthing hybrids.
More Details from the study
The scientists say that the study is the largest investigation made to study sediment DNA coming from a single location, yielding a wealth of information. Lead scientist and author of the study, archaeologist Richard 'Bert' Roberts of the Wollongong University, Australia, had a chance to examine the samples.
The researchers were able to incorporate the dates that were assumed for the deposits in Denisova Cave using molecular evidence for the presence of people and fauna in their study.
Samples from Denisova cave
When the sediments were studied, they produced 700 samples from different places in the caves. Parts of the cave are the main chamber, with places in the eastern chamber. According to one of the authors and archeologist, Zenobia Jacob of Wollongong University, it took more than a week to gather their relevant samples in the three cave chambers. Documenting the places in the cave, cited UK News Today took time.
When collected by the researchers, the sedimentary evidence was sent to the MPI for evolutionary anthropology. It took two years for the members of the study to extract and sequence what has been left of hominin mitochondrial DNA.
They hit the jackpot and the mysterious Denisovan DNA was found along with Neanderthal DNA, said another lead author Elena Zavala.
Mapping the DNA profiles through sedimentary layers, it was Denisova DNA found. A stone implement dated to be about 250-170,000 years old was found to be theirs. Neanderthals came at the end of that period in time. Later Denisovans and Neanderthals were cohabiting in caves as hypothesized.