What DNA Says About Our Human Family, Ancient Relatives: Neanderthals and Denisovans, Part II
In Episode 2, our study of human evolution continues with a look at our ancient ancestors, the hominins. Who were they and what did they look like? We will look at DNA evidence for how modern humans evolved from these ancient ancestors and spread around the globe—and why we are different yet amazingly the same. People have been particularly interested in our relationship to Neandertals, a closely related hominin that went extinct about 35,000 years ago. Continuing our study of mitochondrial DNA, we will use bioinformatics tools to compare our DNA with Neanderthals and an enigmatic hominin group, the Denisovans. We will learn how DNA mutations act as a molecular clock capable of calculating how long it has been since two individuals have shared a common ancestor. With this information, we can make a tree that shows our relationship with Neanderthals and Denisovans and provide DNA evidence for when our ancestors left Africa.