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The finger points to a new human species
2010 Apr 14

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Our family tree just got clearer. Or is that, more complicated?

Until recently, it was thought there were only two kinds of human-like
creature walking the planet 30,000-50,000 years ago: Homo Neanderthalis and Homo sapiens - us. Then, in 2004, scientists found evidence for a hobbit-like hominin in Indonesia, which they named Homo Floresiensi [unfortunately nick-named the ‘Hobbit’].

As reported New Scientist, a fragment of a 30,000-year-old finger found in a cave in southern Siberia has been subjected to DNA analysis, and the results indicate that its owner was neither a Neanderthal nor a Homo sapiens, both of whom inhabited the region during this period. Instead, the fossil finger appears to belong to an hitherto unknown hominin - perhaps a member of a third species.

The discovery raises the intriguing possibility that about 40,000 years ago three species of human were living alongside one another. Scientists do not know how they interacted or whether they interbred, but it is clear that only one of the three species survived - anatomically modern humans.

The creature has been dubbed X Woman, because the DNA analysed was mitochondrial, which is passed through the maternal line.

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