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The Denisovans were archaic humans closely related to Neandertals, whose populations overlapped with the ancestors of modern-day humans. Using a single-stranded library preparation method, Meyer et al. (p. 222, published online 30 August) provide a detailed analysis of a high-quality Denisovan genome. The genomic sequence provides evidence for very low rates of heterozygosity in the Denisova, probably not because of recent inbreeding, but instead because of a small population size. The genome sequence also illuminates the relationships between humans and archaics, including Neandertals, and establishes a catalog of genetic changes within the human lineage.
We present a DNA library preparation method that has allowed us to reconstruct a high-coverage (30×) genome sequence of a Denisovan, an extinct relative of Neandertals. The quality of this genome allows a direct estimation of Denisovan heterozygosity indicating that genetic diversity in these archaic hominins was extremely low. It also allows tentative dating of the specimen on the basis of “missing evolution” in its genome, detailed measurements of Denisovan and Neandertal admixture into present-day human populations, and the generation of a near-complete catalog of genetic changes that swept to high frequency in modern humans since their divergence from Denisovans.