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In other words, they record periods when Poolepynten was alternately covered by ice and water.
These periods are understood in good detail by Professor Ingolfsson's team, so although direct dating at the dig site gives an age range for the bone of 80-140,000 years ago, the group is confident the specimen can be placed at the upper end of this scale.
A single finger bone and a few teeth found in a cave in Russia revealed another branch of the family tree, the Denisovans, also left their genetic calling card in modern humans, accounting for as much as four per cent of people’s DNA in Melanesia.
Native people from Papua New Guinea in Melanesia are believed to owe between two and four per cent of their DNA to Denisovans and carry less Neanderthal DNA than other Asians.
Researchers have studied the DNA of modern polar bears to try to gauge when the Arctic animals separated from brown bears, their nearest evolutionary cousins.
Presenting their findings in Vancouver, the team explained: ‘We suggest that a third archaic population related more closely to Neanderthal and Denisova than to modern humans introgressed into the San genomes studied here’.
London detour The 23cm-long bone itself retains some critical details that have helped identify it.