The Elements of Evolution (61-18) Denisovans


A small portion of a finger bone was found in Denisova Cave in southern Siberia in 2008. A tooth and toe bone were later found. The cave had also been inhabited by Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon. But the finger bone DNA gave genetic distinction to a new hominin, dubbed Denisovan.

Living 500–30 TYA, Denisovans had a shared heritage with Neanderthals. Their common ancestor emerged from Africa half a million years ago. Neanderthals went west, settling in the Near East and Europe, while Denisovans headed east; whence their speciation. Denisovans ranged from Siberia to southeast Asia. Unlike blue-eyed, fair-skinned Neanderthal, Denisovans were brunettes with brown eyes and dark skin. 100–60 TYA, Neanderthal and Denisovan territories overlapped, and the two species occasionally interbred.

70–40 TYA, modern humans met Neanderthal in the Middle East. Humans later encountered Denisovans in southeast Asia. Denisovans lived among and interbred with humans. The genetic makeup of Australian aborigines and Melanesians derive largely from Denisovans.