Indigenous Filipinos have retained most of the DNA of the extinct Denisovans

Indigenous Filipinos have retained most of the DNA of the extinct Denisovans
Indigenous Filipinos have retained most of the DNA of the extinct Denisovans

In the genome of representatives of the Philippine tribes, the Aeta found up to five percent of Denisovan DNA - more than any other modern man.

Magbukon - one of the Aeta tribes of the Filipino Negritos

Denisovans were one of the late species of hominids, the closest relatives of Homo sapiens, with whom our direct ancestors crossed in the past. Unlike the Neanderthals, very little is known about the Denisovans: only a finger bone, part of a jaw, and several teeth preserved in Altai and Tibet were found. But scientists managed to extract and sequence their DNA, showing that fragments of Denisov's heredity are preserved in many modern inhabitants of Southeast Asia - primarily New Guinea and Australia.

Recently, however, Maximilian Larena and his colleagues from Uppsala University found that most of the DNA of Denisovans is carried by the inhabitants of the Philippines - representatives of one of the Australoid tribes of the Aeta Magbukon. In their genome, the Denisovan part reaches five percent, which is a third more than that of the past “record holders”, the indigenous inhabitants of New Guinea, and 10 times more than that of the majority of Asians. Scientists write about this in an article published in the journal Current Biology.

It is worth saying that the evolutionary branch of the Denisovans separated from the Neanderthal 200-400 thousand years ago, and their common branch from the Sapiens - about 800 thousand years ago. Nevertheless, all these species of Homo not only competed, but also interbred until about 40-50 thousand years ago only sapiens remained on Earth. Fragments of Neanderthal DNA are carried by all modern people (including even "native" Africans), but Europeans and Africans do not have Denisovs DNA.

It is known that most of the heredity of these ancient people was preserved by the Austronesians. Maximilian Larena and colleagues analyzed the DNA of 118 indigenous ethnic groups in the Philippines. The work was carried out by order of the local National Commission for Culture and Arts in order to reconstruct the past of local residents, migration and the interaction of their tribes.

In the process, scientists discovered that the DNA of these people contains a particularly large number of Denisovan areas, and the more it is, the more pronounced the local, negritous heredity. Subsequently, these tribes mixed with later waves of migrations from Asia, and the traces of the Denisovans in the DNA were blurred. However, in the aeta Magbukon, whose representatives are still trying to keep the "purity of blood", they have been preserved especially noticeably.

This allowed scientists to assume that when the distant ancestors of the Aeta tribes just arrived in the Philippine Islands, they had long been inhabited by the Denisovans. Such a picture fits into the idea that hundreds of thousands of years ago, one population of Denisovans settled in the Philippines and other islands of Southeast Asia, and another in Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania. People of the modern type appeared there only about 40-50 thousand years ago.

Nevertheless, not a single material evidence of the presence of Denisovites anywhere outside Altai and Tibet has been found so far. Disputes about who the bones found in the Philippine Callao Cave belong to - Denisovans or representatives of another species of ancient people, Homo luzonensis - continue.

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