Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Enigmatic Denisovans

From Gizmodo:
A pinky finger bone, some teeth, and a lower jaw. That’s all the physical evidence we have of the mysterious Denisovans, an extinct group of hominins closely related to the Neanderthals. Remarkable new research offers a physical reconstruction of the Denisovans based on genetic evidence, providing our first potential glimpse of this ancient human species.

paper published today in Cell has accomplished the seemingly impossible: a reconstruction of Denisovan anatomy using genetic information. The new work, co-authored by archaeogeneticists Liran Carmel and David Gokhman from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, suggests the Denisovans possessed several distinguishing physical characteristics that set them apart from both Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans, including a broad, projecting face, an exceptionally weak chin, and wide hips.

“The paper by Gokhman and colleagues is a pioneering piece of research, which at first glance seems almost like science fiction,” Chris Stringer, a physical anthropologist from the Natural History Museum in London who wasn’t involved with the new research, wrote in an email to Gizmodo. “This is exciting work, pushing the boundaries of what can be gleaned from ancient genomes.”
Science fiction is right. Very little is known about Denisovan anatomy owing to the paltry amount of available physical evidence. (Read more.)

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