A DNA sequence from a hominin in Northern Spain 400,000 years ago reveals the diversity of human-like species living in Eurasia just prior to the evolution of modern humans. Excitingly, the specimen is more similar to the Denisovans, previously thought to live only in central Asia, than the Neanderthals known to live in Europe and Western Asia.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute reveal a newly sequenced mitochondrial genome for an early human ancestor living in Northern Spain 400,000 years ago. Based upon the sequence, this early hominin was an early relative or ancestor of Neanderthals and Denisovans, other hominins from Europe and Asia whose genomes have been fully sequenced. Surprisingly, the new mitochondrial genome seems more similar to the Denisovans discovered in Central Asia than to the Neanderthals living in Europe and Western Asia. This new finding contributes to a picture of growing complexity in the diversity of human-like species living in the past few hundred thousand years in Eurasia, just prior to the evolution of modern humans. Researchers will be desperate to find similar fossils to try to extract autosomal DNA to learn more about our relationship with these ancient members of our family tree.
Special thanks to Elizabeth Brown from the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.