News / Science & Technology

Scientists Discover Third Prehistoric Human Relative

View from a rock above Denisova cave on to the excavation field camp
View from a rock above Denisova cave on to the excavation field camp

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown prehistoric human relative to migrate out of Africa, in addition to Neanderthal and modern human ancestors.   Researchers say they have a lot more to learn about the creature they call X-Woman.

X-Woman gets her name from a small, fossilized finger, possibly a pinky, found by anthropologists in 2008 in a cave in southern Siberia that contained prehistoric bracelets and other ornaments.  

A preliminary genetic analysis of the 30,000 to 50,000 year old bone shows X-Woman represents a third wave of hominins that migrated out of Africa during the Ice Age, between homo erectus two million years ago, that gave rise to modern humans, and Neanderthal, which left the continent a half million years ago.

Svante Paabo is with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Leipzig, Germany.  

Paabo, who led the international researchers says a comparison of DNA with genetic material from anatomically modern humans and Neanderthal shows X-Woman descended from a common ancestor about a million years ago.

"So whoever sort of carried this mitochondrial genome after that, (we think) about a million years ago, is some new creature that has not been on our radar screen so far," Paabo said.

Fossil evidence of descendants of Neadrathal and modern human ancestors has also been found in the Siberian region near X-Woman, further supporting evidence that X-Women may turn out to be a previously undiscovered hominid species.

Scientists analyzed the fossil's mitochondrial DNA, primitive genetic material taken from subatomic particles called mitochondria, which provides energy for the cell.  

Researchers are now conducting a fuller analysis of DNA extracted from the cell's nucleus which codes for the entire organism.  

Paabo says that study will help scientists determine X-Woman's place on the human evolutionary tree. "We don't know if that person is a direct ancestor of us, for example," he said.  "But by studying the nuclear genome we will be able to tell such things.  Is it on the lineage to us?  Is it on the lineage to the Neanderthal, or is it its own branch?"

A nuclear DNA analysis, according to Paabo, might even tell scientists whether X-Woman is a separate hominin species altogether.

The article by Svante Paabo and colleagues on the discovery of X-Women is published this week in the journal Nature.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid