Experts Decode Ancient Girl's Genome

Pinky bone reveals eye, hair color of child who lived 80K years ago
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2012 12:00 PM CDT
Experts Decode Ancient Girl's Genome
This undated photo provided by the journal Nature shows a view from a rock above Denisova cave to the excavation field camp in in Altai Mountains of southern Siberia.   (AP Photo/Nature, Johannes Krause)

You can tell a lot about someone from her finger bone—even if it's 80,000 years old. Using the bone, scientists were able to sequence an ancient Siberian girl's genome 31 times; now, they can tell you her hair, eyes, and skin color, Science reports. (All were brown.) "No one thought we would have an archaic human genome of such quality," says one of the researchers. The bone is one of three known fossils of the Denisovans, a group related to the Neanderthals.

But even though we have hundreds of Neanderthal remains, this sequencing means we now know more about the Denisovans' genetic makeup than we do about any other early human. The genome was decoded so fully that the researchers were able to compare it to modern human genomes, thus revealing just what makes us different from the ancient people. "This is the genetic recipe for being a modern human," says one of the scientists. Using a technique that involves working with a single strand of DNA rather than a double one, researchers learned that human and Denisovan populations separated between 700,000 and 170,000 years ago. Click through for more on the find. (Read more Denisovans stories.)

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