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 Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid