More people have Denisovan genes than thought

Genes from non-human hominids are more common in present-day humans than thought, a new genetic analysis shows.

Researchers from Uppsala University say they’ve discvered that people in East Asia, as well as Oceania, share genetic material with the Denisovans, whose remains were first found in a Siberian cave.

“Our study covers a larger part of the world than earlier studies, and it is clear that it is not as simple as we previously thought,” says says stusy co-author Mattias Jakobsson.

“Hybridization took place at several points in evolution, and the genetic traces of this can be found in several places in the world. We’ll probably be uncovering more events like these.”

It’s been known since last year that the Denisovans interbred with humans, as did Neanderthals, with Denisovan genetic material being found in the genome of present-day people from New Guinea.

But the new study shows that hybridization also took place on the East Asian mainland, long after the Denisovans split off from the hominids from whom we evolved.

This finding was established by using genotype data – rather than complete genomes –  to obtain a larger data set. Advanced computer simulations, says the team, were able to determine and compensate for the potential error caused by this technique.

“We found that individuals from mainly Southeast Asia have a higher proportion of Denisova-related genetic variants than people from other parts of the world, such as Europe, America, West and Central Asia, and Africa,” says Jakobsson. “The findings show that gene flow from archaic human groups also occurred on the Asian mainland.”