The most exciting, intriguing and controversial moments in science this year

Fig. 1: Location of Neanderthals, Denisovans and ancient modern humans dated to approximately 40 ka or earlier. Only individuals from whom sufficient nuclear DNA fragments have been recovered to enable their attribution to a hominin group are shown. Full or abbreviated names of specimens are shown near each individual. Blue, Neanderthals; red, Denisovans; yellow, ancient modern humans. Asterisks indicate that the genome was sequenced to high coverage; individuals with an unknown sex are marked with a question mark. Note that Oase 1 has recent Neanderthal ancestry (blue dot) that is higher than the amount seen in non-Africans. Denisova 3 has also been found to carry a small percentage of Neanderthal ancestry. Data were obtained from previous publications. From the Nature publication by Slon et al., 2018

Fig. 1: Location of Neanderthals, Denisovans and ancient modern humans dated to approximately 40 ka or earlier. Only individuals from whom sufficient nuclear DNA fragments have been recovered to enable their attribution to a hominin group are shown. Full or abbreviated names of specimens are shown near each individual. Blue, Neanderthals; red, Denisovans; yellow, ancient modern humans. Asterisks indicate that the genome was sequenced to high coverage; individuals with an unknown sex are marked with a question mark. Note that Oase 1 has recent Neanderthal ancestry (blue dot) that is higher than the amount seen in non-Africans. Denisova 3 has also been found to carry a small percentage of Neanderthal ancestry. Data were obtained from previous publications. From the Nature publication by Slon et al., 2018

Today the news.com.au published on their website the The most exciting, intriguing and controversial moments in science this year.

Some impressive scientific achievement for 2018 such as the identification of Ghost of Particles or discovering water on Mars. The later was particularly challenging if you think of it, as scientists had to not only send the space sonde to Mars with on-board scientific equipment, but they had to remotely, and when I say remotely I mean some 54 million of kilometers away, conduct their experiments.

I guess other news were more surprising, perhaps even scary, yet could have important consequences for the future. same sex mice giving birth, cloning of monkeys, the transfer of memory from one organism to the other or the very troubling gene editing of babies, were only in science fiction books, but now are reality. Regardless of the ethical problem that those discoveries are raising, one can easily foresee the important changes that could bring to our society in terms of controlled reproduction, “super-species”, immortality of the mind and so on.

Yet, for GARG researchers the most exciting one was certainly the discovery of EARLIEST KNOWN HUMAN HYBRID IDENTIFIED that was reported in a recent paper in the journal Nature.

Homo neanderthalensis lived throughout Europe and Western Asia until around 30,000 years ago when thy went extinct. This species lived in various ecological zones from Europe to middle east to western Asia, survived three important glacial periods, and were excellent hunters, tool makers and even cave artists. Homo sapiens denisova, on the other hand, is poorly known by a small bone fragment recovered in Denisova Cave in Sibera.

In the article, the authors Slon et al. analysed the ancient DNA of the first known human to have had parents of two different “species”, Homo sapiens denisova and Homo neanderthalensis. The bones from which the ancient DNA was extracted, belonged to a your girl that had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. It is not clear if the individual would have been a fertile offspring hence making Denisovan and Neanderthal part of the same species.

Hopefully 2019 will bring more amazing discoveries like the hybrid girl to shed light on our ancestors history.

Renaud Joannes-Boyau