Our Missing Ancestor

Jamie Shreeve, National Geographic magazine’s executive editor for science talks about why DNA from a skeleton found in a cave in Russia adds a mysterious new member to the human family. His latest article, “The Case of the Missing Ancestor,” is in the July issue of National Geographic.


 

The Tooth
The Tooth

Two molars, including this one, and a chip from a pinkie bone are the only fossil evidence so far of the enigmatic people known as the Denisovans. From the July issue of National Geographic magazine.

( © Robert Clark/National Geographic )
The Expert
The Expert

Svante Pääbo led the team that studied the Denisovans’ DNA. His ultimate quarry, he says, is not them but us: He wants to understand the genetic changes that made humans modern. From the July issue of National Geographic magazine.

( © Robert Clark/National Geographic )
The Bone
The Bone

A replica shows the size and position—on Pääbo’s pinkie—of the bone chip that allowed his lab to discover the Denisovans through their DNA. The chip belonged to an eight-year-old girl. From the July issue of National Geographic magazine.

( © Robert Clark/National Geographic )
July issue of National Geographic magazine.
July issue of National Geographic magazine. ( National Geographic )
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