Researchers discovered two partial skulls in China which displayed a very interesting mix of features. This can make the understanding of the human genome even more difficult that it was before.
Modern humans have an interesting evolutionary history and it is pretty difficult to track down all who had an influence on our genome. This discovery of the skulls now make the task harder to tackle.
The finding occurred between 2007 and 2014 in Lingjing, Xuchang County in the Province of Henan. The researchers estimated that they were around 100,000 years old. What is interesting about them is the many features they display, namely genetic traits that have not been met so far in our fossil record.
We know that ancient humans had a history of mating with Neanderthals, and this is why we still exhibit some Neanderthal genes even to the present day. However, the features in these skulls are neither purely human nor purely Neanderthal. In fact, they do not belong to any hominid species.
Researchers noticed that some features were similar to those of the earlier humans that lived in the area, others were derived from earlier humans found in other areas, and others were similar to Neanderthal genes.
The skulls showed that these peculiar individuals, just like modern humans, possessed a large brain volume. However, they did not have ridges over the eyes or a prominence at the back of the skull, like early humans. They showed some structures typical of Neanderthals, such as semicircular ear canals.
The fossils show a mix of feature patterns from both specific traits of the area, as well as features typical of humans in general. They are a clear example of the many paths human evolution took and of the interesting mixtures that occurred between features.
Many scientists speculate that these skulls might belong to the mysterious Denisovans, a group of humans whose existence has been derived only by the DNA in several finger bones and teeth discovered in a Siberian cave. Unfortunately, the skulls lack teeth so that the researchers could tell for sure if they are from the same population like the Denisova Cave fossils.
However, there are some similar fossils also found in China that show the same traits regarding the ear canals, so they might have belonged to the same populations. These fossils also have teeth, and the researchers hope they can recover DNA from them to test their origin.
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