Fossil May Reveal New Human Species

Child's pinky bone in Siberia is from 40,000 years ago
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2010 3:55 PM CDT
Fossil May Reveal New Human Species
This picture provided by the American Museum of Natural History shows a mural depicting Neanderthal life.   (AP Photo/American Museum of Natural History)

A pinky bone found in a Siberian cave may be the first evidence of a previously unknown human species. Scientists examining the 40,000-year-old fossil found DNA that differed from humans and Neanderthals, though they also inhabited the area. "I was amazed," the lead researcher tells USA Today. "There were at least three different forms of humans in this region at one time."

The "mitochondrial" DNA extracted from the bone shows that the individual, a 5- or 6-year-old child, is of a species that split off from humans and Neanderthals 1 million years ago. The task now is to extract chromosomal DNA from the sample to discern the exact identity of the species. Scientists speculate that it could be either a species known only from fossils, such as Homo erectus, or may require a completely new classification.
(More archaeology stories.)

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