Israeli scientists have been able to demonstrate the facial and skeletal structure of an extinct and little-known group of people despite an almost complete lack of bone.
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem worked with colleagues from Stanford University in the US to gain new insights into Denisovans, who lived around 50,000 years ago with Neanderthals and modern humans on Earth.
Archaeologists discovered the Denisovans only in 2008, and by the time the team found out by genetic analysis what this human group looked like, only three teeth and the bone of a Denisovan's little finger had been found.
Shortly after submitting their scientific work, which took place three years after the study of chemical changes in the Denisovan DNA, a chance discovery revealed that they were right.
Peer Review, "said Professor Liran Carmel. "Scientists have discovered a denisovan jawbone! We compared it to our predictions and found it to be the perfect match. Without even planning it, we received independent confirmation that we were able to reconstruct entire anatomical profiles with DNA extracted from a single fingertip. "
Little is known about the Denisovans lived in Siberia and East Asia, but it is believed that their DNA helps today's Tibetans live at high altitude. Studies have shown that around 6 percent of today's Australian and Melanesian Aborigines carry Denisovan DNA.
The Israeli-American team identified 56 Denisovan anatomical features that distinguish Denisovans from modern humans and / or Neanderthals, 34 of them in the skull and published their findings in the journal Cell.
To obtain the results, the team mapped and compared the tiny chemical changes in the genes of Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Chimpanzees. They then figured out what these differences might mean for anatomical features, based on what is known about human disorders in which the same genes lose their function.
Thanks to their laborious genetic detective work, researchers now know that Denisovans had much broader skulls than modern humans, with sloping foreheads, long faces, large dental arches, no chin and large pelvis.
Scientists now hope that the discovery will help them understand more about the lifestyle of the Denisovans and how they have weathered the extreme cold of Siberia.