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Mysterious ancient human crossed Wallace’s Line

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Posted October 18, 2013

Scientists have proposed that the most recently discovered ancient human relatives—the Denisovans—somehow managed to cross one of the world’s most prominent marine barriers in Indonesia, and later interbred with modern humans moving through the area on the way to Australia and New Guinea.

 

Three years ago the genetic analysis of a little finger bone from Denisova cave in the Altai Mountains in northern Asia led to a complete genome sequence of a new line of the human family tree—the Denisovans. Since then, genetic evidence pointing to their hybridisation with modern human populations has been detected, but only in Indigenous populations in Australia, New Guinea and surrounding areas. In contrast, Denisovan DNA appears to be absent or at very low levels in current populations on mainland Asia, even though this is where the fossil was found.

Published today in a Science opinion article, scientists Professor Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide in Australia and Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in the UK say that this pattern can be explained if the Denisovans had succeeded in crossing the famous Wallace’s Line, one of the world’s biggest biogeographic barriers which is formed by a powerful marine current along the east coast of Borneo. Wallace’s Line marks the division between European and Asian mammals to the west from marsupial-dominated Australasia to the east.

Read more at: Phys.org

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