Thursday, September 19, 2019

IBE: Researchers reveal what the mysterious Denisovans looked like based on the tip of a pinky bone

News del IBE (CSIC-UPF)

An international research team with the participation of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint center of the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), reveals what the mysterious Denisovans looked like from the tip of a pinky bone.

The unique scientific discovery, led by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) and with the participation of Tomàs Marquès-Bonet team at the IBE, provides a first insight into the anatomy of this little-known human population only from molecular data of the DNA of an individual.

The study is published today in the prestigious Cell journal, which also illustrates this research on the cover with the reproduction of a Denisovan girl.

The research team applied a new genomic analysis technique to reveal for the first time up to 56 traits that characterize Denisova hominin. The novel method allows associating changes in the activity of genetic regulation in fossils with anatomical changes between human groups to predict their physical appearance. To this end, researchers have used information on the effect of monogenic diseases - which affect only one gene - on the anatomy of known hominid populations.

The method has allowed the team to predict the appearance of Denisova hominin only by analysing the DNA of a pinky bone. "For the first time we can get an idea of what the Denisovans were like, only from molecular data," says Tomàs Marquès-Bonet, ICREA research professor and director of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), and one of the authors of the study. "In addition, this work is an example of how biomedical knowledge can be applied to evolution to help us decipher what our ancestors were like."

More information:
IBE news

Gokhman et al., Reconstructing Denisovan Anatomy Using DNA Methylation Maps, Cell (2019),