The latest DNA genome sequencing evidence shows that ancient humans and Neanderthals probably engaged in interbreeding way back in prehistoric times.
It is a pretty long-winded genome project. It has managed to decode 0.1% of the oldest DNA in the world. The modern human genome was mapped out many times over and over again to get the results.
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This extra donkey work was a necessity though. Without it, the DNA in the age old bones which was degraded and contaminated would have escaped proper analysis.
“Starting such a thing is already very ambitious, and managing it is even more impressive,” Ludovic Orlando, an ancient-DNA researcher at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, told Nature. “We are really reaching the limits of what is possible.”
The probe proves that the remains belong to Neanderthals. This information seems to have caused the date at which Neanderthals split from ancient humans to further recede into the past.
It is indeed an exciting and exhilarating project. Just to be at the helm of it is a woozy experience in itself. The whole matter is one of attempting the impossible.
Confusion over which species these oldest of remains belonged to was the gist of the matter. The bone samples were from a femur and they were in a pretty damaged condition.
One of the individuals from the sample was a Denisovan. This subgroup thrived in present-day Siberia way back when humankind was still in its primitive stages.
These samples were over 430,000 years old. To examine them was an ideal opportunity. The remains have become known as the Sima hominins. That is because they were discovered in Sima de los Huesos which means “a pit of bones” in Spanish.
This is a deep shaft in Spain’s Atapuerca Mountains. This Sima site contains the bones of 28 individuals. Other remnants of animals such as bears have also been found here.
While the death of the hominins may have been an accident, they were probably buried at the site in accordance with ancient rituals.
The characteristic brow ridge of the Neanderthals is present in the Sima hominins. Other traits belonging to Neanderthals are also extant. However, they probably belong to an older species than the Neanderthals.
Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA were differentiated in the ancient remains. The nuclear DNA analysis reveals the Denisovans to be a form of early Neanderthals. Somewhere human beings diverged from Neanderthals.
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The puzzling link between Denisovans and Neanderthals remained something which was not understood. Most likely a mysterious species from Africa went to Eurasia and interbred with Neanderthals. Nothing else could account for the enigma stored in the DNA.