Denisovan DNA in modern Melanesians

Some interesting news on the modern-day Melanesians, Pacific Islanders who lived east of Indonesia. A study of comparing the DNA of modern human populations, the Neanderthals and Denisovans has discovered that the Melanesians contain traces of DNA from both Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans which in turn has implications for how and when populations of hominids interacted with each other in the past.

Excavating Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from the genomes of Melanesian individuals
Vernot et al.
Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aad9416

Denisovan DNA excavated in modern Pacific Islanders
HS Newsbeat, 17 March 2016

Pacific islanders got a double whammy of Stone Age DNA
Science News, 17 March 2016

Although Neandertal sequences that persist in the genomes of modern humans have been identified in Eurasians, comparable studies in people whose ancestors hybridized with both Neandertals and Denisovans are lacking. We developed an approach to identify DNA inherited from multiple archaic hominin ancestors and applied it to whole-genome sequences from 1523 geographically diverse individuals, including 35 previously unknown Island Melanesian genomes. In aggregate, we recovered 1.34 gigabases and 303 megabases of the Neandertal and Denisovan genome, respectively. We use these maps of archaic sequences to show that Neandertal admixture occurred multiple times in different non-African populations, characterize genomic regions that are significantly depleted of archaic sequences, and identify signatures of adaptive introgression.

View paper here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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