We know what Neanderthals looked like. Now, thanks to ancient DNA, Israeli scientists have unveiled the appearance of another of our ancient relatives.
Very few clues exist about the lives of the Denisovans — cousins of Neanderthals — who went extinct around 50,000 years ago: three teeth, a pinky bone, and a lower jaw.
But that was enough for researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to draw conclusions on their appearance.
The mission was challenging, according to Professor Liran Carmel, one of two scientists leading the study.
“It is very difficult to start from DNA sequences and end up with an anatomical profile,” he said.
If it were that easy, police around the world would be pulling DNA from crime scenes and drawing up profiles of the suspects, he added.
Instead, he and his team reconstructed the appearance of the Denisovans after three years of examining the patterns of chemical changes in their ancient DNA.
They then compared these motifs to those of the DNA of Neanderthals and modern man.
Using knowledge of human disorders in which genes lose their function for anatomical features, they explored what those differences might mean.
Using this method — which Carmel described as “85 percent reliable” — they highlighted 56 differences between the Denisovan and modern man and/or Neanderthals.
“The Denisovan is more similar to Neanderthal than to us because they are evolutionarily closer,” he said.
Denisovan skulls were likely wider than those of modern humans or Neanderthals, the study found, and they probably had no chins.
Scientists hope the new technique will allow them to identify skulls discovered in China a few years ago and whose width seems to indicate they might be Denisovans.
– Ancient human hybrid –
Contemporaries of the Neanderthals, the Denisovans first came to light a decade ago.
A finger bone was unearthed a decade ago in a cave called Denisova in southern Siberia near the Mongolian border.
The tiny bone “belonged to a 13-year-old Denisovan girl, who died in the cave” around 70,000 years ago, Carmel explained.
“That pinky bone reopened a whole new chapter in the evolution of man,” he said.
Denisovans and Neanderthals branched off some 400,000 to 500,000 years ago into two distinct branches, separate from the Homo Sapiens branch of modern humans.
While Neanderthals travelled from Africa to Europe and west Asia, Denisovans were present in east Asia.
Scientists don’t know why these human relatives became extinct, but believe they left some of their genome to some modern-day men.
Up to six percent of present-day Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians have Denisovan DNA, according to the Hebrew University.
They are also thought to have transmitted a gene to the Tibetans allowing them to breathe at high altitude.
The fossilised jawbone of a Denisovan found in the mountains of Tibet proves they adapted to live at high altitude at least 160,000 years ago.
The Denisovans may have made tools and even jewellery, new research published in January showed.
Neanderthals migrated into regions where Denisovans lived, said Erella Hovers, a prehistoric archeology professor at the Hebrew University.
Scientists even found a bone fragment from a young girl born to a Denisovan father and Neanderthal mother, she said.
But, she added, the cultural relationships between the branches of the human family remain unclear.
House Judiciary received classified evidence from House Intel just prior to impeachment markup
Hours before the House Judiciary Committee began debating the articles of impeachment into President Donald Trump, the committee received new, classified evidence.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) had given the administration a Wednesday deadline to declassify the evidence, but Vice President Mike Pence's office ignored the deadline, so Schiff sent the evidence anyway.
At issue is a "supplemental submission" from Jennifer Williams, the special advisor for Europe and Russia in Pence's office.
The document contains information about a Sept. 18, 2019 phone call between pence and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Here’s how Mike Pence could step in to sabotage the impeachment trial in the Senate
Vice President Mike Pence could ultimately end up playing a significant role in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial — and ensure that the case against the president isn't even properly presented.
Pence, being the vice president, is also president of the Senate. And as such, he has the power to resolve ties when senators deadlock. In terms of the final vote to convict, Pence will not need to break any ties, because 67 votes are required. But many other aspects of the Senate trial will be decided by a simple majority, including the rules package, and whether to override Chief Justice John Roberts' decisions on what evidence and testimony is admissible. And so even if a few Republicans break with their party on these issues, Pence may be able to step in and ensure the trial is conducted the way Trump wants it to be.
Trump complained about Obama’s Hanukkah party — yet did it even worse himself
President Donald Trump held the official White House Hanukkah party weeks before the holiday was slated to begin on Dec. 22.
Ironically, however, in 2011, Trump attacked President Barack Obama for holding an early Hanukkah party because he would be in Hawaii for the family's annual Christmas celebration.
"Why was the Hanukah celebration held in the White House two weeks early? @BarackObama wants to vacation in Hawaii in late December. Sad," Trump tweeted.
Just a few years later when it was his turn to hold a White House Hanukkah party, the goy-in-chief did it even earlier than Obama. In 2011, Obama held his party one week before the "eight crazy nights" began. Trump's party is 11 days out from Hanukkah. Trump lit the candles anyway.