DNA From Girl’s 90,000-Year-Old Bones Show Her Parents Were Two Different Species

Scientists recently discovered that the 90,000-year-old bone flake remains found in a Russian cave are that of a female prehistoric teen hybrid—a female whose mother was Neanderthal and whose father was a completely different species of extinct human called Denisovan.

According to BBC News:

  Neanderthals and Denisovans were humans like us, but belonged to different species.

The BBC interviewed Viviane Slon, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) in Leipzig, Germany, who said:

We knew from previous studies that Neanderthals and Denisovans must have occasionally had children together. But I never thought we would be so lucky as to find an actual offspring of the two groups.

The bone fragment, thought to be from the arm or leg of the young girl, was originally discovered several years ago in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia, in a cave called Denisova. The cave, where scientists have been sifting through layers of bones and bone fragments in the sediment, appears to show that it had been inhabited for a millennia by a variety of ancient human relatives. 

As NPR tells it:

  Back in 2010, researchers analyzed a fossilized pinky finger bone found in the cave, and discovered a whole new branch of the human family tree. They were dubbed Denisovans: a group of now-extinct hominins genetically different from either Neanderthals or modern humans, who were roaming the planet at the same time.

This bone flake from “Denisova 11” (what researchers have named the young girl) was brought to Leipzig, Germany, for genetic analysis. 

Bence Viola of the University of Toronto told the BBC:

  The fragment is part of a long bone, and we can estimate that this individual was at least 13 years old.

People were excited by the news:

For some, this news brings with it the hope that if our ancestors could overcome prejudice and xenophobia, maybe one day we can too…

Others had questions…

Of course, there were the usual wannabe comedians all lining up to tell the same joke:

Clarifications followed:

Though to be fair, there were some new jokes as well…

…along with a healthy dose of potent skepticism:

No matter though—the news is giving life to conspiracy theorists everywhere, offering them something freshly ancient to do with their free-time— because apparently an episode of Bones predicted ALL of this!

H/T: Twitter, National Geographic