WASHINGTON – Present-day Asians and Native Americans are descended from a group of people who were already in China 40,000 years ago, an analysis of fossil DNA showed this week.
The analysis showed that early modern humans in Beijing had already diverged genetically from the ancestors of modern-day Europeans. The researchers took nuclear and mitochondrial DNA from a leg bone found in the Tianyuan Cave in China in 2003 and used this to reconstruct the genetic profile of the leg’s owner, the researchers said.
“This individual lived during an important evolutionary transition when early modern humans, who shared certain features with earlier forms such as Neanderthals, were replacing Neanderthals and Denisovans, who later became extinct,” said lead author Svante Paabo of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
The analysis of the ancient bone showed similarities to genetic profiles from modern-day Asians and Native Americans, the researchers explained. But it showed the early modern human near Beijing had already diverged genetically from the ancestors of modern Europeans. Also, the proportion of Neanderthal and Denisovan-DNA was no higher than that of modern-day humans in the region.