Ancient Denisovan finger bone seen as surprisingly ‘humanlike,’ scientists say


A Denisovan finger fossil holds a suprising feature that sheds light on the development of our ancestors.

Paleogeneticist E. Andrew Bennett of Paris Diderot University and colleagues claim they have identified the rest of a finger bone, which came from the hand of a teenage female Denisovan, that was discovered a decade ago.

The Denisovans are an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans that roamed in areas that include modern-day Russia and China.

According to researchers, the finger is actually closer in shape to those of modern humans (Homo sapiens) than to those of Neanderthals, which is surprising, given that Denisovans and Neanderthals are closely related.

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Front and back views of the virtually reconstructed Denisovan finger fragment. (E. A. Bennett et al., 2019/Science Advances)

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After Russian scientists discovered the finger in 2008 in Denisova Cave, they cut the specimen in two and sent the pieces to separate DNA research companies, reports Science News.

Researchers say that in comparisons with Neanderthal and H. sapiens species, the dimensions of the fossil finger fell within the range of measures for ancient and modern humans — not Neanderthals.

The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

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