Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Evidence of Unknown Human Species Found in DNA of Melanesians

Geneticists make a surprising find in the DNA of Melanesians.

Scientists found traces of a previously unknown, long-extinct human species hidden in the DNA of today’s Melanesians. Melanesia is an area in the South Pacific Ocean to the northeast of Australia that includes the countries of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea as well as some islands belonging to other nations.


The two ancient hominid species whose DNA traces scientists expected to find were the Neanderthals and Denisovians. But the results of the study showed something else. 

"We’re missing a population, or we’re misunderstanding something about the relationships," said Ryan Bohlender, a statistical geneticist from the University of Texas to Science News.

The goal for the researchers was to investigate how much ancient DNA we carry today. There was a period between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago when several kinds of hominid ancestors intermingled as one group left Africa and met another living in Eurasia. What the scientists realized is that there could have been people other than Neanderthals or Denisovans involved that we have not yet identified.

Map of Oceania.

We still carry some percentage of the ancient hominid DNA within us, with Europeans and Asians having about 1.5 to 4% Neanderthal DNA. Some of that heritage has actually resulted in various health issues. What’s unusual is that the DNA of the Melanesians has about 1.11% of Denisovian DNA, an amount higher than in other groups. It is also different from the amount of 3% estimated by other studies. Studying this incongruity led the scientists to conclude that another, third group of people, bred with early Melanesians. 

“Human history is a lot more complicated than we thought it was,” said Bohlender.  

A native of New Guinea with a pierced nose and hair matted with pig grease. circa 1950. (Photo by Richard Harrington/Three Lions/Getty Images)

What’s more, Danish researchers recently came to a similar conclusion, that a non-Denisovian DNA from an extinct people was present in Australian aboriginals and native Papua New Guineans.

One possible issue is that we don’t have many samples of Denisovian DNA and might just not know all the variations of these people. So far, scientists only found one Denisovian finger bone and some teeth.

The analysis by Bohlender is currently awaiting peer review. Further research into the ancient hominids is necessary to confirm their find.

COVER PHOTO:

Huli wigmen from Lake Kopiago and Tari display their strikingly decorative woven wigs of human hair adorned with bird of paradise feathers during a singsing in Port Moresby, 14 August 2007. The Huli men weave their wigs from their own hair grown while living in isolation before they marry. The designs of the wigs and the patterns of their facial paint are indicative of a wigman's tribe. (Photo credit: TORSION BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

LIVE EVENT | Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

Why Nikola Tesla was obsessed with the Egyptian pyramids

The inventor Nikola Tesla's esoteric beliefs included unusual theories about the Egyptian pyramids.

Tesla and the Pyramid of Giza

Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia
Surprising Science
  • Nikola Tesla had numerous unusual obsessions.
  • One of his beliefs was that the Great Pyramids of Egypt were giant transmitters of energy.
  • He built Tesla Towers according to laws inspired by studying the Pyramids.
Keep reading Show less

Navy SEALs: How to build a warrior mindset

SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.

Videos
  • The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
  • Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
  • Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Keep reading Show less

New guidelines redefine 'obesity' to curb fat shaming

Is focusing solely on body mass index the best way for doctor to frame obesity?

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • New guidelines published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argue that obesity should be defined as a condition that involves high body mass index along with a corresponding physical or mental health condition.
  • The guidelines note that classifying obesity by body mass index alone may lead to fat shaming or non-optimal treatments.
  • The guidelines offer five steps for reframing the way doctors treat obesity.
Keep reading Show less
Coronavirus

How COVID-19 will change the way we design our homes

Pandemic-inspired housing innovation will collide with techno-acceleration.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast