From deep inside a cave, some of humankind’s deepest family secrets could soon come tumbling out from a distant relative. If DNA is extracted from the bones in the Dinaledi Chamber in the Rising Star cave system in the Cradle of Humankind, geneticists might be able to place where Homo naledi sits on the family tree and whether we still carry traces of the species. "There is a real possibility that our species interbred with Homo naledi, and DNA will be able to tell us that," says Prof Lee Berger of Wits University, the leader of the team that discovered the new hominid species. Research by scientists at the University of Buffalo in the US recently discovered that a gene found in saliva of some modern sub-Saharan populations was so different from other humans that it suggested genetic contribution from another species. "It seems that interbreeding between different early hominin species is not the exception, it’s the norm," says Dr Omer Gokcumen, an assistant professor of biological ...

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