A Denisovano in Tibet

Readers interested in paleontology will already be accustomed to the richness of knowledge that archaeologists know to deduce from a piece of fossilized foot, which can reveal the arboreal or biped habitat of its extinct owner, or of half decayed molar and Mal Conserved that perhaps delates its belonging to the genus Homo. Yes, that genre that we are now the only representatives, but only 100,000 years ago we shared with another half a dozen species, which we know so far. The most mysterious of these are the Denisovanos, of which until now had only appeared a few fragmentary bones in the Siberian Cave of Denisova, and they would never really have been assigned to a new species of not being because they could read their genome. Read in matter how a new and humble fossil found in Tibet, a mere piece of jaw, has advanced knowledge about our evolution in a dazzling way. It is what paleontology has, especially when it is aided by genetic information.

The finding sheds light on three issues. To begin with, it is the first Denisovano fossil to be found outside the cave of Denisova, in southern Siberia. That cave not only revealed the existence of that species, but also the first first-generation hybrid between a Neanderthal and a Denisovano. Only thanks to this cave we have been able to know that the Denisovanos had sex with the modern humans who arrived in Asia, since fragments of their DNA appear today in Asians, Oceanic and (to a lesser extent) in the Native Americans, who came to the new World from Asia crossing the Bering Strait. Given these genomic results, denisovanos fossils could be expected to be found throughout Asia, not only in a Siberian cave. And so it has been. Surely there will be many more fossils, including some that walk through the Asian museums without a classification that welcomes them.

The second point is that the Tibetan jaw reinforces the hypothesis that crosses between human species 50,000 years ago and over (Denisovanos with Sapiens, Sapiens with Neanderthals, Neanderthals with Denisovanos and see what else) had a fruitful effect on the Local evolution. The Denisovanos lived in the deoxygenated altitudes of Tibet at least 160,000 years ago (the jaw dating), and perhaps even before, when the Sapiens had not even evolved, let's not talk about leaving Africa. For an African emigrant of 60,000 years ago, adapting to those altitudes required one of only two solutions: to stand there half a million years and wait for Darwin to kill generation after generation all the Misfits, or steal the genes from the Denisovanos That were already adapted to it since long before. That implies sex, implies that the offspring were viable and fertile and, surely, that it adapted to Tibet by the fast track.

The third point is that we must recognize that genomics has reached a predictive capacity that is usually reserved for physics. The existence of the Denisovanos is, by any criterion considered, a prediction of genomics. The jaw of Tibet is the most recent confirmation of that theoretical vigor. If I had to play my salary, I would bet there will be a lot more confirmations of genomics in the future.

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