The Missing Link
It has become clear that we, homo sapiens, have DNA from other ancient hominids and not so hominids. It seems that neat stick drawings of evolutionary trees are not a realistic picture of where we came from. Europeans have 2-4% Neanderthal DNA, while South Asians and people from Oceana have at least 5% Denisovan DNA. There are other as yet unidentified DNA sequences from at least two “Ghost” subspecies, now extinct, that have had dalliances with homo sapiens in the last 50,000 years. These have been temporarily named with the placeholder designations of EH1 and EH2. There were a lot more eligible bachelors and bachelorettes available then, that would have made for much more exciting TV shows than what we are forced to watch now. The EH1 group has disbursed its DNA within 2.6 to 3.4 percent of Asian and native Australian populations. While the EH2 hominids are limited to Indonesia, specifically the Island of Flores where the skeletal remains of a small hominid named H. floresiensis were found. Because of its size, it is given the nickname of “the hobbit.” Although this name is currently under legal challenge by the Tolkien estate which claims it is the copyrighted property of the author J.R.R. Tolkien who wrote the book, The Hobbit.
When I was in high school, I recall in biology class the enigma we were all taught about, our link to monkeys was just not there. “The missing link” was proof positive that Darwinian evolution was all godless bunk. As it turns out, multiple missing links have been dug up in various sites of the Rift Valley, especially at the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania by the Leaky’s and others. It was Louis Leaky who gave Jane Goodall her start in studying the daily life of chimpanzees, which led her to slay many of the sacred cows of what supposedly defines our species as human, such as using tools, communicating with each other, and social behavior.
Further down the Rift Valley in Ethiopia, “Lucy” was found. She was a 3.7 million-year-old Australopithecus hominid who walked upright and appeared after the split into two families, Pongidae (monkeys) and Hominidae (hominids). It is all very complicated with crosslinks and the ancient species leapfrogging into our species, leaving tell-tale bits of DNA behind. That all elusive “missing link” is not missing anymore. Not only did fossil evidence spring out of the ground, but DNA from test tubes leaked into the evidence pool to become even stronger proof of our origins.
The discovery of Denisovans, an entirely new species of Homo, was based on DNA obtained from the tip of a 50,000-year-old phalanx bone of a child found in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, and subsequently confirmed from the DNA isolated from an adult’s molar tooth.
It is no longer possible to deny that we are a melting pot of organisms with ancient DNA residing in our cells and floating in our bodily fluids. It is time we own up to our origins and our relationship to the rest of the miracle of life.