DNA from an ancient prehuman girl found in Siberia shows she was likely an eastern relative of Neanderthals and, like them, her species interbred with early modern humans.
The species, dubbed Denisovans, lived 30,000 years ago and contributed a significant chunk of DNA to modern Melanesians living on Pacific islands, researchers reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
Last March, the same team reported the discovery of the previously unknown species of prehuman, using DNA pulled from an ancient finger bone found in a cave, according to ABC News.
"It's an incredibly exciting finding," said Carlos Bustamante, a Stanford University geneticist who was not involved in the research.
The research was led by Svante Paabo, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Liepzig, Germany. Dr. Paabo and his colleagues have pioneered methods for rescuing fragments of ancient DNA from fossils and stitching them together. In May, for example, they published a complete Neanderthal genome, New York Times informs.
Modern-looking humans don't show up in the fossil record until about about 200,000 years ago, found at sites in Africa, and they migrated fully out of Africa about 60,000 years ago.
Those are the predecessors to today's humans but the new results suggest small contributions as well from interbreeding with archaic human species such as the Neanderthals and Denisovans, USA Today reports.