Tea Leaves

The new paper in Science about an Australian genome (An Aboriginal Australian Genome Reveals Separate Human Dispersals into Asia) hints at something new.  Comments in the supplement (and by Ann Gibbon) suggest that the Denisovans may stem from Homo erectus, at least in part, rather than being a sister group to Neanderthals as suggested in the paper by Reich and Patterson back in December.  In the supplement, the authors  suggest that they may be a sister clade to the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans.  Ann Gibbons say the same, concerning the Denisovan girl whose pinky we found: “She was not a modern human, but a descendant of Homo erectus, an ancestral species that left Africa almost 2 million years ago. ”

Denisovan mtDNA is deeply diverged from modern human or Neanderthal mtDNA,  while the Denisovan teeth found look strangely old-fashioned. Moreover, it now looks as if admixture between hominid subspecies is the norm rather than the exception.   So, although Denisovans as an admixture between H. erectus and some branch of Neanderthals was always a possibility,  evidence, signs, and portents are starting to make it look likely.






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4 Responses to Tea Leaves

  1. jb says:

    If the Denisovans are in fact an admixture of Neanderthal and Homo Erectus, then isn’t it possible that the Abos et. al. are not in fact admixed with Denisovans at all, but with pure Homo Erectus? This seems more parsimonious to me than a Neanderthal sister group sprawled across Asia from Siberia to Southeast Asia (in which case, what happened to Homo Erectus?).

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  3. redneck says:

    Some abos do look a little bit like homo erectus, most economical theory to explain their appearance is that they are mix of mostly modern humans, with a substantial admixture of homo erectus – how substantial may be politically difficult to ascertain.

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