A 40,000-year-old human skeleton previously excavated in China has yielded genetic clues to Stone Age evolution.
Ancient DNA from cell nuclei and maternally inherited mitochondria indicates that this individual belonged to a population that eventually gave rise to many present-day Asians and Native Americans, says a team led by Qiaomei Fu and Svante Pääbo, evolutionary geneticists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
The partial skeleton, unearthed in Tianyuan Cave near Beijing in 2003, carries roughly the same small proportions of Neandertal and Denisovan genes as living Asians do (SN: 8/25/12, p. 22), the scientists report online January 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Stone Age people and their close evolutionary relatives interbred infrequently, the researchers suspect. DNA analyses of additional human fossils from Asia and Europe are needed to illuminate how often cross-species flings occurred tens of thousands of years ago.