Aired 5 years ago on 77WABC Radio 

You Won't Believe What Scientists Found In This Cave

Science writer Carl Zimmer talks about ancient remains found in a Siberian cave that sheds more light on the ancestors of Homo sapiens.

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"They are pushing the date back of this most recent tooth to 110,000 years."

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Handout Mario Tama Scott Barbour William Thomas Cain David Silverman
TRANSCRIPT This transcript was generated by AudioBurst technologies

First of all start with this cave, more mysteries this tells me are they still digging in the cave? or are they going over the examples they have gathered over the years, good evening to you. - Good evening this is a cave in Siberia that Russian scientists have been going to for many years now they go every summer to excavate and to find bone fragments which they then study and in recent years they have been able to find some DNA in them. - The DNA in a tooth and a finger bone that is what we are looking at, they were found in 2008, but the fresh information points to a surprising dating for the DNA of one tooth, what is the relationship between Neanderthals and Denisovans? Do we have a rough description of when they diverged? - We do and its actually based on the DNA that has come out from underneath of the cave, scientists actually found a toe bone from a Neanderthals that has a complete  Neanderthals genome and then they also found in some of these teeth and a finger bone you mentioned they have also found DNA from another linage of humans which is closely related to Neanderthals, they may have split half a million years ago if you look at how different their DNA is, but it appears that they are sort of cousin lineages and they both lived in different points of that cave, they are pushing the date back of this most recent tooth to 110,000  years do we have a picture of what they look like based on the DNA? Is that even possible? Do we need the bones? - Well you really do need the bones to make a lot of inferences about some really important things like you cant say exactly how big their brain was just based on their genome , we just don't know enough about DNA to be able to reconstruct any animal that way let alone human or human relatives. You know it so they can make some inferences about things like hair color and so on, but, and if you just look at their relatives, in other words Neanderthals and us, ya you could pretty much assume they were up right, they had big brains, they probably used tools, but its a funny situation  that we are in , that we have their complete genome we can look at every single gene of a denisovan and yet physically all what we got are a couple of teeth and a finger bone.