First hominins on the Tibetan Plateau were Denisovans
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Denisovan mandible likely represents the earliest hominin fossil on the Tibetan Plateau
So far Denisovans were only known from a small collection of fossil fragments from Denisova Cave in Siberia. A research team led by Fahu Chen from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, CAS, Dongju Zhang from Lanzhou University and Jean-Jacques Hublin from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology now describes a 160,000-year-old hominin mandible from Xiahe in China. Using ancient protein analysis the researchers found that the mandible’s owner belonged to a population that was closely related to the Denisovans from Siberia. This population occupied the Tibetan Plateau in the Middle Pleistocene and was adapted to this low-oxygen environment long before Homo sapiens arrived in the region.
Video (different sizes available)
Animation of the virtual reconstruction of the Xiahe mandible. (Picture credit: Jean-Jacques Hublin, MPI-EVA, Leipzig)